NEW YORK: US stocks ended higher on Friday, helped by a jump in energy and mining companies' shares as oil and metals prices soared to record highs, while an index of consumer confidence rose for the first time this year.
Stock investors jumped on the commodities bandwagon, snapping up Exxon Mobil Corp and rival oil company ConocoPhillips, which helped push the broad S&P 500 into positive territory for the year.
Exxon Mobil, the world's biggest publicly traded oil company, rose 1.3% to US$60.89 and ConocoPhillips gained 3.6% to US$60.68, after US oil futures hit a fresh intra-day record at US$58.60 a barrel.
Caterpillar Inc, which gave the biggest lift to the blue-chip Dow, rose almost 2% to US$100.20, as the heavy equipment maker benefited from the boom in mining and metals prices. Copper futures hit a record in London and repeatedly set 16-year highs in New York.
“Oil up a buck-and-a-half is helping the energy stocks,” said Peter Boockvar, equity strategist at Miller Tabak & Co, in an interview before the oil futures trading session ended.
The Dow Jones industrial average ended up 44.42 points, or 0.42%, at 10,623.07. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index closed higher by 6.00 points, or 0.50%, at 1,216.96. The tech-laced Nasdaq Composite Index edged up 0.96 of a point, or 0.05%, to 2,090.11.
For the week, the Dow was up 1.05%, the S&P 500 rose 1.57% and the Nasdaq climbed 1.31%.
After the bell, shares of Johnson & Johnson slipped to US$65.76 on the Inet electronic brokerage network after the healthcare products company said it was continuing talks with Guidant regarding a recall of some of the implantable heart defibrillators that Guidant makes. Johnson & Johnson, a Dow component, ended the regular session up 0.4% at US$66.56.
“The consumer has a bit more confidence and is out there spending money,” said Joseph Battipaglia, chief investment officer for brokerage and research firm Ryan, Beck & Co.
On Friday morning, Wall Street got good news when the University of Michigan's early reading on consumer confidence for June rose to 94.8 for its first gain this year, market sources said, well ahead of May's reading of 86.9 and higher than analysts had expected.
“The only impediment that's still up there is, of course, the price of oil,” Battipaglia said.
While high oil prices are generally negative for stocks and indeed trimmed the market's gains in afternoon trading, they help energy companies' profits.
Oil prices set a new record of US$58.60 a barrel during the NYMEX session after the United States and other Western nations shut consulates in oil-producing Nigeria following a terrorist threat.
US crude for July delivery settled at a record US$58.47, up US$1.89.
Alcoa Inc, the world's largest aluminium producer and another Dow component, rose 1.2%, or 32 cents, to US$28.25 as aluminium prices stayed at lofty levels.
On the Nasdaq, Millennium Pharmaceuticals Inc. jumped nearly 14%, or US$1.14, to US$9.40 against a backdrop of speculation that the company could be a takeover candidate, analysts said.
On Thursday, Millennium said the New England Journal of Medicine published positive reports on two of its products, an oncology drug, Velcade, and MLN02, an investigative treatment for inflammatory bowel diseases.
The New York Stock Exchange said first-hour volume reached an all-time high of 704,370,000 shares.
By the close, about 1.94 billion shares had been traded on the New York Stock Exchange.
On Nasdaq, about 2.11 billion shares were traded, above the 1.81 billion daily average last year. – Reuters
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