published on April 27, 2017 - 1:40 AM
Written by Associated Press

(AP) — U.S. stock indexes flittered up and down Thursday, as a slump in energy stocks partly offset advances by Under Armour, PayPal and other companies reporting stronger-than-expected profits.

It’s the second straight day where indexes have made modest, meandering moves, following two big gains at the start of the week.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor’s 500 index added 2 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,389, as of 3 p.m. Eastern time. It had climbed to within a whisper of its March 1 record closing level of 2,395.96 in recent days, but momentum faded late Wednesday following the White House’s highly anticipated unveiling of its tax plan, which contained only broad outlines.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 15 points, or 0.1 percent, to 20,990. The Nasdaq composite rose 22 points, or 0.4 percent, to 6,047 and is on pace to close at a record for the third time in four days.

ENERGY SLUMP: Benchmark U.S. crude dropped 65 cents, or 1.3 percent, to settle at $48.97 per barrel, while Brent crude, which is used to price international oils, fell 38 cents to $51.44 a barrel.

That dragged energy stocks in the S&P 500 down by 1.2 percent, the largest loss of the 11 sectors that make up the index. Noble Energy lost $1.52, or 4.4 percent, to $32.64, and offshore-drilling contractor Transocean fell 39 cents, or 3.4 percent, to $11.06.

EARNINGS SURPRISES: Under Armour surged to one of the biggest gains in the S&P 500 after reporting results for the first quarter that were better than analysts’ expectations. A sharp rise in sales abroad, particularly in Asia, helped push revenue to $1.12 billion from $1.05 billion in last year’s first quarter. The company’s A-class shares rose $2.16, or 11 percent, to $21.87.

Companies across industries have been reporting encouraging results for the start of 2017, and analysts expect this to be the strongest quarter of growth in years. The lengthening parade of encouraging profit reports has helped lift stocks and temper concerns, at least a bit, that the market had grown too expensive.

“Expectations were high, and they needed to deliver, so thankfully they have delivered,” said Nate Thooft, senior portfolio manager at Manulife Asset Management. “As long as earnings continue to follow through and economic data doesn’t roll over materially, stocks can keep going.

People will say that valuations are expensive, but I would say, ‘Yeah, but not relative to fixed income.'”

The S&P 500 jumped more than 0.6 percent on Monday and again on Tuesday following better-than-expected profit reports, along with growing expectations that the European Union will remain intact following the first round of France’s presidential elections.

RING IT UP: PayPal Holdings jumped $3.07, or 6.9 percent, to $47.48 after reporting stronger revenue and earnings than Wall Street had forecast.

TUNED IN: Comcast’s A-class shares rose 84 cents, or 2.2 percent, to $39.63 after rising revenue at theme parks it acquired as part of its NBCUniversal purchase helped it to report stronger first-quarter results than expected.

ON DESCENT: American Airlines slumped even though it reported first-quarter results that topped analysts’ expectations. Investors focused instead on the pay raises it plans to give pilots and flight attendants, which could crimp future profits.

The stock fell $2.61, or 5.6 percent, to $43.79.

MARKETS ABROAD: European markets sank after the European Central Bank left its monetary policy unchanged.

The French CAC 40 fell 0.3 percent, the German DAX slipped 0.2 percent and the FTSE 100 in London dropped 0.7 percent.

In Asia, the Nikkei 225 in Japan slipped 0.2 percent, South Korea’s Kospi added 0.1 percent and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong rose 0.5 percent.

COMMODITIES: The price of gold rose $1.70 to settle at $1,265.90 an ounce, silver slipped 10 cents to $17.27 per ounce and copper fell a penny to $2.58 per pound.

Natural gas slipped 3 cents to settle at $3.24 per 1,000 cubic feet, heating oil fell 3 cents to $1.51 per gallon and wholesale gasoline dropped 4 cents to $1.55 per gallon.

CURRENCIES: The euro fell to $1.0879 from $1.0939 late Wednesday while the dollar slipped to 111.18 Japanese yen from 111.38 yen. The British pound rose to $1.2903 from $1.2843.

YIELDS: Treasury yields ticked lower as government bond prices rose. The 10-year Treasury yield edged down to 2.29 percent from 2.30 percent late Wednesday. The two-year Treasury yield two-year fell to 1.25 percent from 1.27 percent, while the 30-year Treasury yield held steady at 2.96 percent.

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