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Stocks close with modest gains led by energy sector

Traders work on the floor of the New

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street on March 1, 2016. Credit: Getty Images / Andrew Renneisen

Stocks closed modestly higher Wednesday, led by gains in energy companies as investors hope that the worst may soon be over for the battered sector.

Exxon Mobil led the Dow Jones industrial average higher with a gain of 2 percent. Other energy companies also rose. Investors were encouraged by another gain in the price of oil, its seventh rise in the last eight days.

At the close on Wall Street, the Dow had edged up 34 points, about 0.2 percent, to 16,899. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index added 8 points, about 0.4 percent, to 1,986. The Nasdaq composite climbed 13 points, about 0.3 percent, to 4,703.

As the markets closed, the price of benchmark U.S. crude oil was up 40 cents, about 1.16 percent, at $34.80 a barrel in trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. In London, the price of Brent crude, the international benchmark, gained 25 cents, about 0.7 percent, to $37.06 a barrel.

SPORTS AUTHORITY BANKRUPTCY. Bloomberg News reported Sports Authority Inc. filed for bankruptcy Wednesday after failing to exploit the fitness boom that’s been a rare bright spot in retail. To reorganize, it says it will try to benefit from something else: tax law. The company has fallen far since a $1.3 billion buyout in 2006 piled it with debt.

JOBS ADDED. Payroll processor ADP reported that U.S. businesses added a healthy 214,000 jobs in February, another sign that the U.S. job market remains resilient despite economic weakness overseas and tumult in financial markets. It was up from 205,000 jobs in January. “It’s a very strong report. The labor market is healthy,” said analyst Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. “This is very good news particularly in the context of the turmoil in the financial markets in the past several months.”

WEAK EARNINGS REPORTS. Several companies were slipping in early trading Wednesday after delivering disappointing forecasts. Agribusiness giant Monsanto dropped 5 percent after cutting its outlook, and spirits maker Brown-Forman, whose brands include Jack Daniels, fell 4 percent after cutting its forecast.

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