Stocks break a 3-week slump and end higher; oil price sinks

Oil prices fall again

U.S. stocks bounced back on Monday after losing ground for three weeks as the dollar's rally against the euro abated.

Elsewhere in financial markets, oil closed at a six-year low, below $44 a barrel, as supplies continue to outpace demand. Treasurys gained after some mixed reports on the economy.

The stock market has stumbled in recent weeks as the dollar has surged against the euro. The U.S. currency has been rising on expectations that the Federal Reserve will start to raise interest rates even as the European Central Bank continues to provide stimulus to that region's economy.

A stronger dollar is a problem for big U.S. companies that rely on overseas sales because it makes their goods more expensive in foreign markets and reduces the value of the profits they bring back home to the U.S.

“The dollar was weaker today, which was helpful.” said Quincy Krosby, a market strategist at Prudential Financial. “There's no doubt that the stronger dollar has been impeding sales.”

The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 27.79 points, or 1.4 percent, to 2,081.19. It was the biggest gain for the index in six weeks.

The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 228.11 points, or 1.3 percent, to 17,977.42. The Nasdaq composite jumped 57.75 points, or 1.2 percent, to 4,929.51.

The focal point this week for investors is the Fed's two-day policy meeting that starts on Tuesday. Many investors and analysts expect the U.S. central bank will signal in a statement after the meeting that they are considering raising interest rates later this year. The Fed has kept its benchmark lending rate near zero for more than six years, underpinning a strong rally in U.S. stocks.

Investors will also be looking for any comments Fed policymakers might make on the impact to the economy of the rapid surge in the dollar, Krosby said.

Stocks rose broadly on Monday. Nine of the 10 industry groups that make up the S&P 500 index rose.

The market gained despite some mixed reports on the economy.

U.S. industrial production edged up slightly in February as a big surge by utilities due to a cold winter offset a third straight decline in factory output. The Federal Reserve also reported that industrial production rose 0.1 percent in February following a 0.3 percent fall in January.

Another report showed that U.S. homebuilders are feeling slightly less confident in their sales prospects, even as their overall sales outlook remains favorable. The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index slipped this month to 53, down two points from February. It's the third monthly decline in a row.

The economic data gave a lift to bond prices, pushing Treasury yields lower. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note dropped to 2.08 percent from 2.12 percent on Friday.

Health care stocks were the biggest gainers of the 10 industry groups that make up the S&P 500, rising 2.2 percent. Gains for the sector were led by Edwards Lifesciences, a company that develops and manufactures products to treat heart disease. On Sunday, the company announced positive study results for the medical device maker's third-generation heart-valve replacement system.

The company's stock climbed $13.29, or 9.8 percent, to $148.64, making it the biggest gainer in the S&P 500.

Avon Products was the biggest loser in index.

The cosmetics company's stock is being removed from the S&P 500 on March 20. It will be replaced by menswear company Hanesbrands. Avon fell 44 cents, or 5.7 percent, to $7.28.

Energy stocks managed to gain despite another big slump in the price of oil.

Oil fell to its lowest level in six years on continuing expectations that rising supplies in the U.S. are far outpacing demand. Benchmark U.S. crude fell 96 cents to close at $43.88 a barrel in New York.

The price of oil has dropped 12 percent over the past week, and is now the lowest since March of 2009. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, fell $1.23 to close at $53.44 in London.

In Europe, Germany's DAX rose 2.2 percent to 12,167, the first time the index has closed above 12,000. France's CAC 40 rose 1 percent to 5,061, while Britain's FTSE 100 rose 0.9 percent to 6,804. European stocks have surged this year after the European Central Bank announced that it would introduce more stimulus to revive the region's slumping economy.

In currency trading, the euro strengthened to $1.0575 from $1.0497 Friday. The U.S. currency has surged against the euro in this year. The strengthening dollar hurts U.S. companies such as Coca-Cola and Proctor & Gamble that rely on overseas sales for a large chunk of their revenue.

The dollar was little changed against the Japanese currency at 121.40 yen.

Precious and industrial metals futures edged higher. Gold rose 80 cents to $1,153.20 an ounce, silver rose 12 cents to $15.62 an ounce and copper inched up less than a penny to $2.67 a pound.

In other futures trading on the NYMEX:

— Wholesale gasoline fell 3.3 cents to close at $1.729 a gallon.

— Heating oil fell 1.4 cents to close at $1.699 a gallon.

— Natural gas fell 1.1 cents to close at $2.716 per 1,000 cubic feet.

 

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