U.S. stocks inched higher Thursday as smaller retailers and banks traded higher and energy companies rose with fuel prices. However, once again, the market was unable to hang on to more substantial gains from earlier in the day.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose as much as 98 points early in the afternoon.
Terry Sandven, chief equity strategist for U.S. Bank Wealth Management, said investors are feeling uncertain, and that may hold true for at least a few weeks. After a weak auto sales report on Monday, he said investors are wondering how fast the economy is growing and what that will mean for company earnings. “We expect volatility to be higher than what we experienced in the first quarter,” he said.
About three-fourths of the stocks on the New York Stock Exchange rose Thursday, but stocks are mostly down this week. The Russell 2000 has fallen 1.6 percent.
Investors will get an updated picture of the economy in the coming weeks, including the government’s March report on employment Friday. Next week the Commerce Department will give a report on retailer sales and companies including JPMorgan Chase, Delta Air Lines and Netflix will report their earnings.
ON WALL STREET: At the markets close, the Standard & Poor’s 500 index added 4.54 points, about 0.2 percent, to 2,357.49. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 14.80 points, or 0.1 percent, to nearly 20,663. The Nasdaq composite gained 14.47 points, about 0.2 percent, to 5,878.95. The Russell 2000 index of small-company stocks performed far better. It closed up 12.28 points, about 0.9 percent, to 1,364.43.
OIL PRICES: As markets closed, U.S. benchmark crude oil was up 55 cents at $51.70 a barrel in trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. In London on the Intercontinental Exchange Europe, Brent crude, the international standard, added 53 cents to $54.89 a barrel.
BOND PRICES: Bond prices recovered from an early decline. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note stayed at 2.34 percent. Companies that pay big dividends, like phone companies and utilities, traded lower. Investors often sell those stocks when bond yields rise, as they did earlier in the day.