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Stocks end with gains as Fed signals no rush on interest rates

Traders work on the floor of the New

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange at the start of the trading session on Wall Street on Aug. 5, 2016. Photo Credit: EPA / Justin Lane

U.S. stocks closed barely higher Wednesday as big gains for utilities balanced out losses for retailers like Lowe’s, Target and Staples.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 21.92 points, or 0.1 percent, to 18,573.94. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index gained 4.07 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,182.22 after falling as much as 10 points early on. The Nasdaq composite inched up 1.55 points to 5,228.66. That continued a persistent pattern of small moves for U.S. stocks.

Utility companies made the biggest gains, as low interest rates and bond yields make their big dividend payments more appealing. Dominion Resources jumped 2.6 percent to $76.65 and Xcel Energy added 1.7 percent to $42.33.

Consumer companies slumped after weak results and forecasts for some major retailers. Home improvement retailer Lowe’s cut its annual profit forecast after it reported a profit that was smaller than analysts expected, and sales at older stores were weak. Lowe’s stock fell 5.7 percent to $76.88. Target also lowered its profit projections as it deals with stiff competition. Its stock lost 6.4 percent to $70.63.

Office supply retailer Staples fell after disappointing analysts with its forecasts, which included further sales declines. Its stock fell 7.1 percent to $8.67.

— AP

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