Energy companies led U.S. stock indexes to modest gains in afternoon trading Monday as the price of crude oil headed higher for the fifth day in a row. Phone companies and financial stocks lagged the broader market. Several big corporate deals were also helping to lift the market.
KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor’s 500 index gained 5 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,360 as of 2 p.m. Eastern Time. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 48 points, or 0.2 percent, to 20,704. The Nasdaq composite index added 11 points, or 0.2 percent, to 5,889. Trading was relatively quiet ahead of the Good Friday holiday, when U.S. markets will be closed.
THE QUOTE: “There’s no economic data today and it’s a short trading week,” said Randy Frederick, vice president of trading and derivatives at the Schwab Center for Financial Research. “I would expect a quiet, sideways low-volume week.”
HIGH ENERGY: Several oil industry stocks got a boost from rising crude prices. Hess was the biggest gainer in the S&P 500, climbing $1.93, or 4 percent, to $49.98. Rig operator Transocean rose 34 cents, or 2.7 percent, to $12.78.
CALL ANSWERED: Straight Path Communications more than doubled after the wireless spectrum license company agreed to be acquired by AT&T in a deal valued at $1.25 billion. Straight Path’s shares gained $53.90, or 147.8 percent, to $90.37. AT&T slipped 14 cents to $40.46.
MERGING LANES: Shares in trucking companies Swift Transportation and Knight Transportation rose sharply on news the companies have agreed to combine in an all-stock deal. Swift shareholders will own a majority of the company, which will be called Knight-Swift Transportation Holdings. Swift’s shares added $4.46, or 22.3 percent, to $24.48, while Knight gained $3.93, or 12.8 percent, to $34.58.
CALL IT A COMEBACK: Rent-A-Center jumped 5.7 percent after the furniture and appliance rental company said Mark Speese, its founder and chairman, will return as CEO. Speese has been the company’s interim CEO the last three months. Rent-A-Center also issued an optimistic 2018 forecast. The stock climbed 55 cents to $10.15.
MARKETS OVERSEAS: Germany’s DAX inched down 0.2 percent, while France’s CAC 40 lost 0.5 percent. Britain’s FTSE 100 was flat. Earlier in Asia, Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 added 0.7, while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.9 percent. South Korea’s Kospi fell 0.9 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was steady.
OIL: Benchmark crude oil was headed higher for the fifth day in a row. It was up 65 cents, or 1.2 percent, at $52.89 a barrel in New York. It added 54 cents to $52.24 a barrel late Friday. Brent crude, the standard for international oil prices, was up 52 cents, or 0.9 percent, at $55.76 a barrel in London.
CURRENCIES: The dollar fell to 110.96 yen from 111.15 yen late Friday. The euro strengthened to $1.0601 from $1.0588.
TREASURY YIELDS: Bond prices rose. The 10-year Treasury yield fell to 2.36 percent from 2.38 percent late Friday.