Stocks Maintain Gains by US Close on Support From Oil Price Rally, Earnings

Stocks in the US stayed stronger by the close on Wednesday as oil prices gained and stronger earnings reports added lift, although a slide in Intel (INTC) after its financials constrained some of the gains.

The Nasdaq, where Intel trades, underperformed the other benchmarks, as the chipmaker ended 5.9% lower. It was also the worst performer among the blue chips on the Dow Jones Industrial Average. American Express (AXP) posted the strongest gain, up about 2% ahead of its after-hours earnings release.

Strong earnings from banks helped push the Standard & Poor’s 500 financials sector to a 0.8% increase by the close, the second-best performance among the eight of 11 groups that posted advances. Morgan Stanley (MS) ended 1.9% higher after its quarterly profit jumped. Banc of California (BANC) surged 18% after reporting improved third quarter earnings and revenues that beat analysts’ expectations.

Energy shares had the S&P’s best performance, gaining 1.4% on a rally in oil prices. West Texas intermediate was up 2.6% late in the day while Brent rose 1.7% after an unexpected drop in inventory levels. Energy services firm Halliburton (HAL) was up 4.3% after posting a surprise profit. Drilling company Transocean (RIG) gained 5.7%.

Wednesday’s economic data had only a modest impact on the markets. Housing market data was mixed with September housing starts falling 9.0% but permits up 6.3%. The Federal Reserve’s Beige Book showed the economic environment hasn’t changed that much from the previous report, but the indication of wage pressures and tight labor markets resulted in light selling pressure towards the close.

The calendar on Thursday picks up with the weekly jobless claims data, the Philadelphia Fed business outlook survey, September existing home sales and September leading economic indicators. Some of the companies that are slated to report earnings including Verizon (VZ) and Dow components Microsoft (MSFT and The Travelers Cos. (TRV).

By the close, the Dow and the S&P 500 were both up 0.2% while the Nasdaq gained less than 0.1%.

Globally, the FTSE 100 was up 0.3%, the Nikkei 225 rose 0.2%, the Hang Seng fell 0.4% and the Shanghai Composite Index was little changed.

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