Indexes inch higher as oil prices jump, but retailers skid

NEW YORK (AP) — A surge in the price of oil sent energy companies higher on Friday, but U.S. stocks got only a small boost overall as retailers suffered big losses.

Stocks rose in morning trading as oil prices climbed, and the Dow Jones industrial average jumped more than 150 points early on. Retailers skidded as investors worried about reports from Gap and L Brands. Biotech drugmakers returned some of their gains from earlier in the week.

Oil prices climbed about 7 percent this week as the dollar got weaker. The price of oil has seesawed as investors hope energy producing companies will cut production. Experts aren’t sure the gains will last.

“If this fizzles out in a week or so I think you could see oil prices roll over,” said Steve Chiavarone, associated portfolio manager for Federated Investors.

The Dow picked up 35 points, or 0.2 percent, to 17,576.96. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 5.69 points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,047.60. The Nasdaq composite index eked out a gain of 2.32 points, or less than 0.1 percent, to 4,850.69.

Benchmark U.S. crude rose $2.46, or 6.6 percent, to $39.72 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, gained $2.51, or 6.4 percent, to $41.94 a barrel in London.

ConocoPhillips picked up 92 cents, or 2.3 percent, to $41.23 and Murphy Oil advanced $1.25, or 5.1 percent, to $25.69.

Oil prices recovered this week, and Chiavarone said that’s partly because the Federal Reserve is stressing that it will raise interest rates slowly. That makes the dollar weaker, and investors think that means demand for oil will go up.

Gap said all three of its major chains saw their sales drop in March, and added that levels of product inventory are high, which could lead to bigger discounts that will hurt its profits. Meanwhile L Brands said it will restructure its Victoria’s Secret brand and eliminate about 200 corporate jobs.

Gap plunged $3.83, or 13.8 percent, to $23.85 and L Brands stock lost $3.65, or 4.3 percent, to $80.50. The companies’ statements and their losses hurt companies that sell everything from athletic apparel to handbags to watches to department store chains. Macy’s gave up 94 cents, or 2.3 percent, to $39.68. Under Armour lost 87 cents, or 2 percent, to $43.54.

Analyst Simeon Siegel of Nomura Securities said Gap and L Brands both reported decent sales, and their problems don’t suggest big trouble for retailers in general.

“Everything gets lumped in together,” he said. He added that retail stocks have made big gains recently. “For the past few weeks we’ve had this incredible rally that really wasn’t predicated on any results,” he said.

Pain drug maker Depomed rose after activist investment firm Starboard Value disclosed a 9.8 percent stake in the company, making it one of Depomed’s largest shareholders. Last year Horizon Pharma tried to buy Depomed for about $1.1 billion, or $33 per share, but Depomed fended off that effort and Horizon dropped it in November. Depomed’s stock jumped $1.95, or 13 percent, to $16.95.

Biotech drugmakers retreated. Regeneron Pharmaceuticals lost $13.43, or 3.2 percent, to $404.94 and Biogen declined $2.21, or 0.8 percent, to $270.83. Those stocks logged their biggest gain in almost five years on Wednesday, but have suffered big losses since July.

Specialty glass maker Corning said it will buy optical components maker Alliance Fiber Optic Products for $18.50 per share, or $305 million. Alliance stock surged $2.99, or 19.3 percent, to $18.45. Corning dipped 13 cents to $20.53.

Ruby Tuesday tumbled 62 cents, or 11.9 percent, to $4.60. The restaurant chain’s earnings were disappointing and it cut its forecasts. The company also said its chief financial officer will leave to take a job with another company.

The price of gold rose $6.30 to $1,242.50 an ounce. Silver gained 23 cents, or 1.5 percent, to $15.38 an ounce. Copper edged up 1 cent to $2.02 a pound.

Energy prices rallied in late February and march as investors hoped that major oil-producing nations will agree to freeze production levels in mid-April. But Chaivarone said they may be disappointed, and if a deal doesn’t emerge, he thinks oil prices could fall back to around $30 a barrel.

In other energy trading, wholesale gasoline rose 8 cents, or 6 percent, to $1.46 a gallon. Heating oil jumped 7 cents, or 6.6 percent, to $1.20 a gallon. Natural gas slipped 3 cents to $1.99 per 1,000 cubic feet.

The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note rose to 1.72 percent from 1.69 percent. The dollar rose to 108.33 yen from 108.24 yen. The euro inched up to $1.1397 from $1.1377.

Stocks in Europe rallied. France’s CAC 40 rose 1.4 percent and the FTSE 100 in Britain climbed 1.1 percent. Germany’s DAX added 1 percent. Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index finished 0.5 percent higher. South Korea’s Kospi dipped 0.1 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng rose 0.5 percent.

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AP Markets Writer Marley Jay can be reached at http://twitter.com/MarleyJayAP His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/journalist/marley-jay

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