Stocks rebound as oil prices and the energy sector climb

Energy stocks led a broad rally in U.S. stocks Thursday, giving the market its biggest gain in over a month.

A recovery in crude oil prices helped put stocks into rebound mode a day after the market had its worst drop since September. Investors also welcomed some encouraging company earnings.

Chevron and Exxon Mobil each jumped about 5%, by far the biggest gains in the Dow Jones industrial average. It was a reprieve for the energy sector, which has been battered in recent months as crude oil prices plunged. U.S. crude oil rose 2.4% on Thursday.

“That all led to a little bit of confidence in the markets and some buyers coming in,” said Sean Lynch, co-head of global equity for Wells Fargo Investment Institute. “It's been pretty ugly so far, year-to-date, and it's good to see the gains, but we'll see if they follow through [Friday].”

The Dow rose 227.64 points, or 1.4%, to 16,379.05. The average had risen as much as 330 points earlier. The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 31.56 points, or 1.7%, to 1,921.84. The Nasdaq composite added 88.94 points, or 2%, to 4,615.

It was the best gain for each index since Dec. 4.

Even with the big rebound day, the three major U.S. stock indexes remain down for the year. The Dow and S&P 500 are both off about 6%, while the Nasdaq is down nearly 8%.

It has been a rocky start to the year for stocks, reflecting investor worries about the slowdown in China, plunging oil prices and the implications those trends may have for U.S. corporations. The first eight trading days of 2016 represent the worst start to a year in the history of both the S&P 500 and the Dow.

That slump worsened on Wednesday, pushing the S&P 500 index into what's known as a correction, or a drop of 10% or more from a recent peak.

On Thursday, after wavering in the first hour of trading, the market shifted higher and remained on an upward track the rest of the day.

Investors welcomed a pickup in the price of crude oil, which had briefly fallen below $30 a barrel for the first time since late 2003 the day before. It ended up rising 72 cents, or 2.4%, to close at $31.20 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, also gained 72 cents, or 2.4%, to $31.03 a barrel in London.

The rise in crude oil led traders to pile into several big-name energy companies. Exxon Mobil added $3.47, or 4.6%, to $79.12, while Chevron rose $4.14, or 5.1%, to $85.47.

“The markets in general needed a little dose of confidence and they got it through a firming of oil prices,” Lynch said.

Energy company Williams Cos. vaulted 34.4%, to lead all the gainers in the S&P 500. The stock, which had fallen sharply a day earlier, rose $4.68 to $18.29. It's still down 29% for the year. Freeport-McMoRan also got a boost. The mining company rose 46 cents, or 12.3%, to $4.20.

All told, the S&P 500's energy stocks jumped 4.5%. The sector remains down 6.1% for the year.

The start of the latest corporate earnings season also helped lift the market Thursday.

JPMorgan Chase rose 1.5% after the bank reported earnings that were better than analysts expected. The stock added 86 cents to $58.20.

Some companies provided less encouraging updates.

Best Buy slid 9.7% after the electronics store operator reported a drop in sales during the holiday season. The company also said it expects a wider drop in fourth-quarter revenue, partly on weak mobile phone and personal device sales. The stock was the biggest decliner in the S&P 500 index. It shed $2.83 to $26.43.

Investors may get more insight into how the U.S. economy and Corporate America are doing on Friday. Reports on consumer sentiment, retail sales and manufacturing are due out. Several big banks, including Citigroup and Wells Fargo, are also scheduled to release quarterly earnings.

In Europe, Germany's DAX dropped 1.7% and France's CAC 40 slid 1.8%. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was 0.7% lower. In Asia, Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 dived 2.7%, South Korea's Kospi fell 0.9% and Hong Kong's Hang Seng lost 0.6%. The Shanghai Composite rebounded nearly 2.0%.

Precious and industrial metals future closed mixed. Gold lost $13.50 to $1,073.60 an ounce, silver fell 41 cents to $13.75 an ounce and copper rose 2 cents to $1.98 a pound.

In other energy trading, wholesale gasoline rose 1.6 cents to $1.068 a gallon, heating oil rose 1.1 cents to 98.1 cents a gallon, and natural gas fell 13 cents to $2.139 per 1,000 cubic feet.

U.S. government bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.10% from 2.09% late Wednesday.

In currency trading, the euro fell to $1.0862 from $1.0876, while the dollar rose to 118.15 yen from 117.78 yen.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATES

3:39 p.m.: This article has been updated with additional information and analysis. 

1:26 p.m.: This article has been updated with closing prices. 

12:57 p.m.: This article has been updated with more recent prices and additional information. 

10:52 a.m.: This article has been updated with more recent prices and additional information. 

9:37 a.m.: This article has been updated with more recent prices and additional information. 

8:47 a.m.: This article has been updated with more recent prices and additional information. 

This article was originally published at 6:50 a.m.

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