U.S. stocks end higher, reversing a loss from the day before

Encouraging news from overseas pushed the U.S. market higher on Thursday, helping stocks recover some of the ground they lost a day earlier.

In China, frantic efforts by authorities to stop a monthlong rout in the country's stock market met with some success. The Shanghai Composite surged after opening sharply lower. U.S. investors have become concerned that the selloff there would start to hurt growth in the world's second-biggest economy.

In Europe, stocks soared on speculation that last-ditch talks between Greece and its creditors would produce an agreement, preventing a possible Greek debt default.

Those problems, and the fear that they could hurt the global economy, have pushed down the U.S. stock market in recent weeks.

“We're cautioning investors not to get too concerned,” said Alec Young, an investment strategist at Oppenheimer Funds. “There's been a lot of noise recently, but when we really look into it, none of it, at this point, is leading us to a very negative view” of stocks.

Young thinks that the problems in Europe and China are not expected to do a huge amount of damage to the two economies in the long run.

In the U.S., the Standard & Poor's 500 index climbed 4.63 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,051.31. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 33.20 points, or 0.2 percent, to 17,548.62. The Nasdaq composite rose 12.64 points, or 0.3 percent, to 4,922.40.

Stocks surged at the open, pushing the S&P 500 index nearly 30 points in early trading. Those gains faded throughout the day, in part because the early euphoria over the Chinese stock market proved short-lived, said Randy Frederick, a managing director at the Schwab Center for Financial Research.

“If people aren't allowed to sell, of course (the market's) not going to go down,” said Frederick. “Until you get back to the point where the market is free, there's open trading, and it's not going down, then I'd say it's stabilized.”

The Shanghai Composite surged 5.8 percent but the index is still down 27 percent in the last month. Hong Kong's Hang Seng climbed 3.7 percent.

Among the flurry of measures announced recently by the Chinese government, was an order to state companies and executives to buy shares. Also, a directive from the China Securities Regulatory Commission is requiring investors owning more than 5 percent of a company's shares to not sell their holdings for the next six months.

Gains in the U.S. Thursday were also held back by losses for utility companies. The dividend-rich stocks surged last year as investors looked for income as bond yields fell. However, a rise in yields since January has made utility stocks seem less attractive.

On Thursday, the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury rose to 2.31 percent from 2.20 percent a day earlier, a big move, as investors sold the safest assets. The yield on the 10-year note was as low as 1.64 percent at the end of January.

Walgreens Boots Alliance logged the biggest gain in the S&P 500.

The company, the owner of Walgreens and Duane Reade drugstores, surged after reporting quarterly earnings that beat expectations. The company also raised its outlook for the year. Its stock climbed $3.64, or 4.2 percent, to $89.55.

In energy trading, the price of oil rose for the first time in six trading sessions as the Chinese stock market steadied, easing fears that the economy there would slow significantly and reduce demand for oil.

Benchmark U.S. crude rose $1.13 to close at $52.78 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, rose $1.56 to close at $58.61 in London.

In currency trading, the euro fell to $1.1032 while the dollar rose to 121.31 yen.

In metals trading, silver rose 19.8 cents to $15.35 an ounce. Gold fell $4.30 to $1,159.20 an ounce and copper rose 5.4 cents to $2.56 a pound.

In other futures trading on the NYMEX:

— Wholesale gasoline rose 4.6 cents to close at $2.045 a gallon.

— Heating oil rose 2.1 cents to close at $1.736 a gallon.

— Natural gas rose 4.1 cents to close at $2.726 per 1,000 cubic feet.

 

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