US stocks veer mostly higher in morning trade; oil slides

U.S. stock indexes edged mostly higher in morning trading Wednesday as gains in health care companies and retailers outweigh losses in banks and utilities. Consumer goods companies also posted gains. Energy stocks were among the laggards as crude oil prices declined.

KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 index rose 2 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,714 as of 11:30 a.m. Eastern Time. The Dow slid 21 points, or 0.1 percent, to 24,685. The Nasdaq composite added 18 points, or 0.3 percent, to 7,369. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks picked up 6 points, or 0.4 percent, to 1,607.

THE QUOTE: “Earnings growth has shown through and that’s been primarily based on strong fundamental growth from U.S. companies,” said Jamie Lavin, global investment specialist at J.P. Morgan Private Bank. “And when equity markets are able to look through to that and we don’t have any major geopolitical headlines, we tend to have stronger days in the market.”

HEALTHY TURN: Health care sector companies notched solid gains. Align Technology rose 2.7 percent to $291.29.

RETAIL RALLY: Macy’s jumped 9.2 percent to $32.69 after reporting quarterly results that were far better than analysts were expecting. The company said its Bloomingdale’s and Bluemercury divisions as well as its flagship store brand all did well. Several other retailers also moved higher. Norstrom added 0.7 percent to $50.22, while L Brands gained 2.6 percent to $34.18. Target shares picked up 2.8 percent to $75.16.

ENCOURAGING UPDATE: Office Depot rose 3.4 percent to $2.42 after the office supply company maintained its forecasts for the year.

FIDO APPROVED: Abaxis vaulted 15.6 percent to $82.94 after the veterinary diagnostic products company agreed to be acquired by Zoetis.

WARREN’S WAY: Teva Pharmaceutical Industries climbed 3.3 percent to $20.98 after Warren Buffett’s company Berkshire Hathaway more than doubled the size of its investment in the Israeli drugmaker. Phillips 66 fell 1.2 percent to $116.93 after the Berkshire sold about half of its investment in the oil and gas company.

BOND YIELDS: Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 3.09 percent from 3.07 percent late Tuesday, when the yield climbed to its highest level in nearly seven years.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude oil gave up 28 cents to $71.03 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oil, shed 28 cents to $78.15 a barrel in London.

The slide in crude prices pulled down energy stocks. Newfield Exploration slid 1.2 percent to $28.77.

CURRENCIES: The dollar fell to 110.29 yen from 110.38 yen on Tuesday. The euro weakened to $1.1784 from $1.1847.

MARKETS OVERSEAS: Major indexes in Europe rose. Germany’s DAX gained 0.1 percent, while France’s CAC 40 added 0.2 percent. Britain’s FTSE 100 rose 0.2 percent. In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei 225 stock index lost 0.4 percent following new data showing that Japan’s economy contracted in the first quarter. The Kospi in South Korea was essentially flat. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng slipped 0.1 percent.

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