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Stocks inch up as surge in oil prices lifts energy companies

A sign for Wall Street on the

A sign for Wall Street on the side of building near the New York Stock Exchange on March 4, 2013. Photo Credit: AP / Mark Lennihan

A surge in the price of oil sent energy companies higher on Friday, but U.S. stocks got only a small boost overall.

Retailers skidded as investors worried about reports from Gap and L Brands. Biotech drugmakers returned some of their gains from earlier in the week.

The Dow picked up 35 points, or 0.2 percent, to 17,576.96. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 5.69 points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,047.60. The Nasdaq composite index eked out a gain of 2.32 points, or less than 0.1 percent, to 4,850.69.

Benchmark U.S. crude rose $2.46, or 6.6 percent, to $39.72 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, gained $2.51, or 6.4 percent, to $41.94 a barrel in London.

ConocoPhillips picked up 92 cents, or 2.3 percent, to $41.23 and Murphy Oil advanced $1.25, or 5.1 percent, to $25.69.

Gap said all three of its major chains saw their sales drop in March, and added that levels of product inventory are high, which could lead to bigger discounts that will hurt its profits. Meanwhile L Brands said it will restructure its Victoria’s Secret brand and eliminate about 200 corporate jobs.

Gap plunged $3.83, or 13.8 percent, to $23.85 and L Brands stock lost $3.65, or 4.3 percent, to $80.50.

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