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Stocks edge higher as investors seek dividends

Stocks edge higher as investors seek dividends
The New York Stock Exchange. (Frank Franklin II / Associated Press)

U .S. stocks finished slightly higher on Wednesday as investors picked stocks that pay big dividends, like real estate and phone companies. Energy companies fell with the price of oil and healthcare stocks continued to slide.

Stocks barely budged for most of the day. The top gains went to the biggest dividend-payers, which are seen as relatively safe investments. The price of oil, which reached a 15-month high on Monday, inched lower for the second day in a row. Healthcare stocks continued to lose ground after health insurer Humana said its bonus payments from Medicare could be reduced.

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The Dow Jones industrial average edged up 15.54 points, or 0.1%, to 18,144.20. The Standard & Poor's 500 index added 2.45 points, or 0.1%, to 2,139.18. The Nasdaq composite slipped 7.77 points, or 0.1%, to 5,239.02.

Investors bought big dividend payers like real estate investment trust and utilities. Those stocks are the worst performers on the market over the last three months. Early in the year those stocks soared as investors looked for safe picks while the market tumbled.

Real estate investment trust Crown Castle International added $2.45, or 2.8%, to $91.45. American Tower Corp. picked up $2.60, or 2.4%, to $111.54. Verizon led phone companies higher with a gain of 40 cents, or 0.8%, to $50.30; utility WEC Energy gained 83 cents, or 1.5%, to $57.42.

Stanley Black & Decker agreed to buy the tools business of consumer products maker Newell Brands for $1.95 billion. The deal will give Stanley Black & Decker brands including Irwin and Lennox and will help Newell Brands simplify its business after its purchases of Jarden and Elmer's within the last year. Stanley Black & Decker gained $3.39, or 2.9%, to $121.05, and Newell Brands rose $1.08, or 2.1%, to $51.42.

Wireless equipment maker LM Ericsson plunged after it forecast disappointing quarterly results and said it doesn't expect improvement any time soon. Its stock fell $1.46, or 20.8%, to $5.54.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil slid 61 cents, or 1.2%, to close at $50.18 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the international standard, fell 60 cents, or 1.1%, to close at $51.81 a barrel in London. That sent energy companies lower. Chevron lost 89 cents to $102.15, and National Oilwell Varco shed 88 cents to $36.08.

Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 1.77% from 1.76%. Though bond yields are low by historic standards, they're at their highest levels since the beginning of June as investors grow more certain that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates in the coming months.

Gold inched down $2.10 to $1,253.80 an ounce. Silver remained at $17.51 an ounce. Copper slid 1 cent to $2.18 a pound.

UPDATES:

3:15 p.m.: This article was updated with information from the market close.

8:40 a.m.: This article was updated with most recent market information.

This article was originally published at 6:55 a.m.

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