U.S. stocks ended the day about where they started Thursday after big gains over the last two days. Utilities and phone companies rose the most as bond yields slipped. Chemicals companies and banks were down. Retailers including Dollar Tree and Costco, which have been pummeled in recent weeks, traded higher after strong earnings reports.
ON WALL STREET: At the close, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 23.2 points, about 0.1 percent, to 17,828.3. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index was off less than a point at 2,090.1. The Nasdaq composite index gained 6.9 points, about 0.1 percent, to 4,901.8. Stocks have climbed over the last two days and are trading close to their highest prices in 2016.
OIL PRICES: As markets closed, U.S. benchmark crude oil had slipped 23 cents to $49.33 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. In London, the international standard Brent crude was down 35 cents to $49.39 a barrel. Oil prices are at their highest level since October and U.S. crude is near $50 a barrel, a level it hasn’t surpassed since last July.
U.S. ECONOMY: The government said new applications for unemployment benefits fell to 268,000 last week. Applications are a proxy for layoffs, so the decline suggests that companies feel comfortable enough to hold on to their workers.
A separate report showed that orders for long-lasting manufactured goods rose in April. However that was mostly because of an increase in commercial aircraft sales, and those sales can rise or fall by a lot from month to month. A measurement of business investment fell for the third month in a row, signaling that manufacturing is still under pressure.