After a day of ups and downs Thursday, stock indexes closed with gains. The continuing rebound in oil prices gave energy companies a lift, but phone companies and banks slid. The dollar is weakening and reached its lowest level compared to the Japanese yen in almost three years.
ON WALL STREET: At the close, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 23.8 points, about 0.1 percent, at 18,597.7. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index gained 4.8 points, about 0.2 percent to 2,187. The Nasdaq composite added 11.5 points, about 0.2 percent, to 5,240.2.
Stocks have bobbed up and down for more than a week and they finished a bit higher Wednesday after the Federal Reserve released minutes from its late July meeting. Stocks made small gains as investors felt the Fed is in no hurry to raise interest rates again.
OIL PRICES: About the same time, benchmark U.S. crude gained $1.44 to $48.23 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. In London, Brent crude, used to price international oils, rose 97 cents to $50.82 a barrel. Oil prices have rallied over the last two weeks, but they have essentially remained between $40 and $50 a barrel for the last four months. In February oil traded as low as $26.21 a barrel and the relative stability in oil prices has boosted energy company stocks.
JOBS: The federal government said fewer people filed for unemployment benefits last week. A total of 262,000 new applications were filed. Applications for jobless benefits have remained below 300,000 per week for almost a year and a half, the longest streak since 1970. Applications are a proxy for layoffs, which have remained low as hiring has grown. The number of people receiving benefits is around 2.18 million, down 4 percent over the last year.