Stock indexes moved slightly higher in late-afternoon trading, reversing an earlier slide. Health care companies led the rebound. Energy stocks were the biggest laggard following a meeting of OPEC ministers that ended without an agreement on crude production cuts.
ON WALL STREET: At the close, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 48.9 points, about 0.3 percent, at 17,838.6. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index gained 5.9 points, about 0.3 percent, at 2,105.3, and the Nasdaq composite index gained 19.1 points, about 0.4 percent, to 4,971.4.
OIL PRICES: OPEC oil ministers ended a meeting in Vienna without reaching a consensus on regulating supplies. Crude oil prices bounced back after an initial slide. As markets closed, benchmark U.S. crude oil was $49.01 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. In London, Brent crude, which is used to price international oils, was up 13 cents at $49.85 a barrel.
FEELING HEALTHY: Health care sector companies were among the biggest gainers in the S&P 500. Drugmaker Endo International rose 88 cents, or 5.3 percent, to $17.50, while health insurer Humana climbed $7.83, or 4.4 percent, to $185.23. Aetna gained $4.30, or 3.7 percent, to $119.59.
THE QUOTE: Trading has been subdued as investors hold out for more clues as to whether the Federal Reserve will raise its key interest rate at the central bank’s next meeting of policymakers later this month.
“This is just noise trading around on low volume,” said Scott Wren, senior global equity strategist at Wells Fargo Investment Institute. “Even with tomorrow’s employment data coming out, I don’t think there’s much that’s going to move the market out of this range we’ve been in until we get some clarity out of the Fed.”
LAYOFFS PROXY: The Labor Department said fewer Americans applied for jobless aid last week, the third straight drop in a sign that the job market remains healthy despite a recent slowdown in hiring. Weekly applications for unemployment aid dipped 1,000 to a seasonally adjusted 267,000. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, fell to 276,750.