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Stocks rise on oil, credit news

From Times Wire Services

Most stocks rose Friday as lower commodity prices boosted the outlook for consumer companies and the two largest bond insurers had their credit ratings affirmed.

Eight of 10 industry groups in the Standard & Poor’s 500 index advanced as a report showing unexpected growth in New York manufacturing spurred optimism that the economy would pick up as energy and raw material prices retreat.

Crude futures dropped $1.24 to $113.77 a barrel, near a three-month low, on the New York Mercantile Exchange after sinking as low as $111.34. It was oil’s eighth decline in 10 sessions -- a trend fed by growing signs that economies around the world were joining the U.S. in a slowdown.

“It’s a big positive for all the companies we invest in that use oil,” Charles Bobrinskoy, who helps manage about $1 billion as vice chairman of Ariel Investments in Chicago, told Bloomberg Television. “Commodities got way too high and consumer stocks in particular got too low.”

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The Dow rose 43.97 points, or 0.38%, to 11,659.90.

Broader indexes were narrowly mixed. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 5.27 points, or 0.4%, to 1,298.20, while the Nasdaq composite index fell 1.15 points to 2,452.52.

The Russell 2,000 index, which tracks small-cap stocks, fell 1.01 points, or 0.1%, to 753.37.

For the week, the Dow finished down 0.6%, the S&P; 500 rose 0.1%, the tech-focused Nasdaq climbed 1.6%, and the Russell 2,000 surged 2.6%.

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Consumer-oriented stocks in the S&P; 500 rose 1% on Friday despite a smaller-than-expected rise in consumer sentiment in early August. Wal-Mart Stores rose $1.27, or 2.2%, to $59.37.

J.C. Penney jumped $3.11, or 8.4%, to $39.94 after reporting higher-than-expected second-quarter profit.

Industrial stocks in the S&P; 500 rose 0.8%, led by General Electric, after the Federal Reserve reported that U.S. industrial production increased 0.2% in July, more than expected. GE rose 28 cents, or 1%, to $29.80.

Shares of MBIA Insurance and Ambac Assurance surged after S&P; affirmed ratings on them. MBIA’s capital levels remain well above the level required for a double-A rating, S&P; said. Ambac’s efforts to pare its exposure to mortgage-linked securities “are starting to bear fruit,” the rating firm said.

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MBIA jumped 90 cents, or 8.7%, to $11.22. Ambac shot up $1.12, or 25%, to $5.68.

An S&P; index of financial stocks rose 1.1% and is up 23% from its 2008 low set July 15. But year to date it remains down 27%.

Citigroup climbed 2.6%, U.S. Bancorp rose 3%, American Express gained 2.3% and Bank of America rose 1.7%.

Merrill Lynch climbed 31 cents, or 1.19%, to $26.29 after New York Atty. Gen. Andrew Cuomo said he planned to take legal action against the Wall Street giant as part of an investigation into the failure of the auction-rate securities market.

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Wachovia fell 24 cents, or 1.5%, to $15.57 after it became the fifth bank in recent weeks to agree to repurchase billions of dollars’ worth of the investments as part of a settlement with regulators.

Airline stocks rose on the drop in oil. AMR, the parent company of American Airlines, rose 46 cents, or 4.1%, to $11.74.

Meanwhile, shares of major oil companies declined. ConocoPhillips fell $1.71, or 2.2%, to $77.66.

Overseas, key stock indexes rose 0.5% in Japan, 0.1% in Germany and 0.7% in France. Shares in Britain fell 0.8%.

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