Stock market closes slightly higher; oil price rises sharply

The stock market eked out another record close on Thursday as rising oil prices boosted energy stocks.

Best Buy was among the biggest gainers after reporting earnings that exceeded the expectations of Wall Street analysts. Lumber Liquidators, a specialty retailer of hardwood flooring, plunged after its CEO abruptly quit the company.

Stocks are trading at record levels, but the market's gains this week have been modest.

On the one hand, signs that the economy is flagging suggest that the Federal Reserve will likely refrain from raising rates until later in the year at the earliest. The central bank has kept its benchmark interest rate close to zero for more than six years. That's been a good backdrop for stocks.

On the other hand, if the economy fails to pick up sufficiently, corporate earnings will suffer. That would hurt stocks. Also, after a six-year bull market, stocks are no longer cheap.

“At this point, there's a bit of a wait-and-see attitude,” said Stephen Freedman, head of cross-asset strategy at UBS Wealth Management. “There's uncertainty about the Fed and there's uncertainty about the growth outlook in the U.S.”

The Standard & Poor's closed up 4.97 points, or 0.2 percent, at 2,130.82. The Dow Jones industrial average edged up 0.34 point to 18,285.74. The Nasdaq composite rose 19.05 points, or 0.4 percent, to 5,090.79.

Trading volume was lower than average ahead of the Memorial Day holiday in the U.S. on Monday.

Best Buy was among the day's biggest gainers, jumping after the company reported strong earnings. The electronics retailer said sales of mobile phones, big televisions and major appliances helped sales, offsetting weakness in tablets and computers. Its stock jumped $1.33, or 3.9 percent, to $35.11.

Lumber Liquidators fell sharply after CEO Robert Lynch abruptly resigned. The company is embroiled in an investigation over products imported from China after the CBS news show “60 Minutes” first reported in March that some of its flooring contained high levels of the carcinogen formaldehyde, a dangerous chemical.

The company's stock dropped $4.17, or 16.5 percent, to $21.10.

In energy trading, the price of oil rose sharply for the second day in a row on a decline in the value of the dollar, which made oil, which is priced in dollars, more attractive to overseas buyers.

Benchmark U.S. crude rose $1.74 to close at $60.72 a barrel in New York. The price of oil has now climbed more than 40 percent from its lows in March. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oil used by many U.S. refineries, rose $1.51 to close at $66.54 in London.

The latest gain in oil prices helped push the stocks of energy companies higher. Rig operator Transocean rose 83 cents, or 4.3 percent, to $20.09 and Chesapeake Energy rose 56 cents, or 3.8 percent, to $15.31.

Investors also got some more news on the economy.

More Americans sought unemployment aid last week, though the number of applications remains at a historically low level that is consistent with a healthy job market. Weekly applications increased 10,000 to 274,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. The four-week average, a less volatile figure, fell to a 15-year low of 266,250.

Government bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.19 percent from 2.25 percent on Wednesday. The dollar declined to 121.03 yen from 121.25 yen. The euro rose to $1.1112 from $1.1094.

In metals trading, precious and industrial metals futures ended narrowly mixed. The price of gold fell $4.60 to $1,204.10 an ounce, silver rose two cents to $17.13 an ounce and copper rose two cents to $2.85 a pound.

In other energy futures trading:

— Wholesale gasoline rose 4.1 cents to close at $2.082 a gallon.

— Heating oil rose 4 cents to close at $1.986 a gallon.

— Natural gas rose 3.4 cents to close at $2.949 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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