NEW YORK – Wall Street wobbled through an indecisive session Monday, rallying late in the day and squeezing out a modest gain after the price of oil fell back from $66 a barrel. News of several large acquisitions carried some stocks higher.
Analysts said that with many traders on vacation and no economic news to guide the market, stocks were particularly vulnerable to concerns about soaring oil costs and the effect of rising interest rates on the economy. “Higher oil prices, interest rates – that puts downward pressure on price-to-earnings ratios,” said Charles H. Blood, senior financial markets analyst at Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. “The market is still struggling with this, but second-quarter earnings were good enough to offset that drop. That’s why you have this sort of erratic behavior.”
Crude oil futures inched up amid news that sabotage cut power to Iraq’s only functioning oil-export terminals early Monday, temporarily halting shipments. A barrel of light crude settled at $65.45, up 10 cents on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Stock trading volume was light – typical for a late-summer session – which tends to exaggerate the swings in the major indexes.
The Dow Jones industrial average closed up 10.66, or 0.1 percent, at 10,569.89.
Broader stock indicators also ended slightly higher after giving up ground. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index gained 2.02, or 0.17 percent, to 1,221.73, while the Nasdaq composite index advanced 5.85, or 0.27 percent, to 2,141.41.
Bonds ended lower, with the yield on the 10-year Treasury note rising to 4.22 percent from 4.21 percent Friday. The U.S. dollar was mixed against other major currencies in European trading.
Monday’s spate of merger news offered some support to the market, which has been searching for signs of confidence in the economy. Takeover shopping is often a signal that companies are feeling optimistic about business not only in the coming months, but over the next few years.
The day’s acquisitions were led by a $4.18 billion offer from China National Petroleum Corp. for Canadian oil producer PetroKazakhstan Inc., as Chinese companies continue their buying spree of energy assets worldwide.
Overseas, Japan’s Nikkei stock average surged 1.31 percent. Britain’s FTSE 100 rose 0.11 percent, Germany’s DAX index added 0.24 percent, and France’s CAC-40 fell 0.04 percent.
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