U.S. stocks edged higher in afternoon trading Wednesday, led by gains in energy companies as the price of crude oil rose. Gains by health care companies and several big retailers also helped lift the market, which was coming off its worst day in almost three weeks. Travel booking companies, airlines and cruise operators were down as investors monitored Hurricane Irma, which was projected to possibly strike Florida by the weekend.
KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 6 points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,464 as of 12:50 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average added 68 points, or 0.3 percent, to 21,821. The Nasdaq composite fell 7 points, or 0.1 percent, to 6,382. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks dipped less than 1 point to 1,399.
IRMA THREATENS: Investors were monitoring Hurricane Irma, which made its first landfall in the islands of the northeast Caribbean early Wednesday. The Category 5 storm, the most powerful Atlantic Ocean hurricane ever recorded, is forecast to churn along a path pointing to Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba before possibly heading for Florida this weekend.
Traders sold off shares in cruise ship operators for the second day in a row. Royal Caribbean Cruises slid 37 cents, or 0.3 percent, to $118.67. Carnival declined 12 cents, or 0.2 percent, to $66.85. Norwegian Cruise Line shed 37 cents, or 0.7 percent, to $56.32.
HURRICANE TRADES: Newell Brands slumped 4.2 percent after the consumer products maker cut its profit forecast because of Hurricane Harvey. The company noted that almost all of its resin suppliers with facilities in Texas and Louisiana shut down after that storm hit. Newell’s shares gave up $2.04 to $46.68. United Continental was down 1.9 percent after the airline cut its third-quarter outlook, citing increased fuel costs due to Harvey. The stock fell $1.17 to $59.93.
TRAVEL SLUMP: Travel booking portal Trivago tumbled 15.5 percent after the company cut its profit and revenue guidance. The stock lost $2.31 to $12.62. Rivals Expedia and TripAdvisor also fell. Expedia was down $4.03, or 2.7 percent, to $143.58, while TripAdvisor shed 60 cents, or 1.3 percent, to $43.95.
BRANDS SHIFT: Gap shares surged 6.4 percent after the apparel retailer said it will shift its focus to its growing brands Old Navy and Athleta, and away from the Gap and Banana Republic. The company said that it will close about 200 Gap and Banana Republic stores in the next three years and open about 270 Old Navy and Athleta stores during the same period. The stock added $1.54 to $25.57.
CAN’T BEAT ‘EM: Kohl’s climbed 5.2 percent after the department store chain said it will open Amazon shops in 10 of its stores. The announcement follows a similar move by Sears. Kohl’s shares gained $2.10 to $42.49.
HIGH ENERGY: Several energy companies moved higher as the price of crude oil rose. Helmerich & Payne rose $1.90, or 4.3 percent, to $45.67. Noble Energy added 79 cents, or 3.2 percent, to $25.15.
BONDS: Bond prices edged lower. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.07 percent from 2.06 percent late Tuesday.
OIL: Benchmark U.S. crude was up 49 cents, or 1 percent, at $49.15 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price international oils, gained 65 cents, or 1.2 percent, to $54.03 a barrel in London.
CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 108.99 yen from 108.66 yen Tuesday. The euro strengthened to $1.1931 from $1.1918.
MARKETS OVERSEAS: Global stock markets were mixed. In Europe, Germany’s DAX was up 0.7 percent, while France’s CAC 40 was up 0.3 percent. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was down 0.3 percent. Earlier in Asia, Japan’s Nikkei 225 slipped 0.1 percent and South Korea’s Kospi lost 0.3 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index fell 0.5 percent.
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