Walmart powers Dow to record high; oil prices sink

 

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Stocks closed slightly higher Thursday as the Dow managed to post another record closing high but the S&P 500 fell just short.

In up and down trading, stocks initially jumped on better-than-expected Walmart earnings and news of several corporate deals. But the gains were cut as plunging oil prices dragged the energy sector lower.

Oil prices fell below $75 a barrel for the first time in four years as benchmark U.S. crude dropped $2.97, or 4%, to close at $74.21 Thursday. It is down 31% since late June to its lowest level since September of 2010.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 40.50 points, or 0.2%, to a record close of 17,652.79 and hit a new intraday record of 17,705.48. The Dow was led higher by Walmart (WMT) after the nation’s largest retailer reported third-quarter earnings that beat Wall Street expectations. Walmart shares jumped 4.7% to $82.94.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index eked out a gain of 1.08 points to 2039.33, just shy of its record close of 2039.68 set Tuesday. The Nasdaq composite index gained 5.01 points, or 0.1%, to 4680.14.

Energy stocks taking a hit on falling oil prices: ExxonMobil (XOM) dropped 0.8% to $94.66 and Chevron (CVX) fell 1% to $116.45.

In corporate merger news:

• Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway (BRKA, BRKB) announced it is buying the Duracell battery business from Procter & Gamble (PG) in a deal valued at $4.7 billion.

• Shares of Dreamworks Animation (DWA) surged 14% to $25.52 on reports that toymaker Hasbro (HAS) was in talks to buy the film studio. Hasbro was down 4.3% to $54.98.

“There’s been a lot of momentum (up) in recent weeks, and a pause is probably a healthy development,” said Jim Russell, a portfolio manager at Bahl & Gaynor, an investment firm. “We can see a scenario in which the market takes a time out, and reconsolidates for few days.”

Overseas, Japan’s Nikkei 225 gained 1.1% to close at 17,392.79, as machinery orders there rose 2.9% over the previous month, defying predictions of a decline. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index rose 0.3% to 24,019.94 and the Shanghai composite fell 0.4% to 2485.61.

European benchmarks were higher, with Britain’s FTSE gaining 0.4% to 6635.45, Germany’s DAX climbing 0.4% to 9248.51 and France’s CAC 40 up 0.2% to 4187.95.

Wednesday, markets retreated slightly as six big banks were fined $4.3 billion in a settlement over foreign exchange manipulation charges, although the Nasdaq still managed to gain 0.3%.

Contributing: The Associated Press

 

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