Technology, energy help stocks sustain strong start to 2018
NEW YORK — Technology companies are once again leading U.S. stocks higher Wednesday as indexes remain at all-time highs. Energy companies are rising along with the price of oil. South Carolina energy company Scana, which had plunged after it stopped construction of a $9 billion nuclear project, is jumping after it agreed to be bought by Dominion Energy for $7.9 billion in stock.
KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 15 points, or 0.6 percent, to 2,710 as of 1:20 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average added 70 points, or 0.3 percent, to 24,894. The Nasdaq composite climbed 54 points, or 0.8 percent, to 7,061. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks was little changed at 1,550. The S&P 500, Nasdaq and Russell all closed at all-time highs Tuesday.
ENERGY: Oil prices are at two-and-a-half-year highs and are still rising, and that's helped energy companies make big gains over the last month. Benchmark U.S. crude added $1.16, or 1.9 percent, to $61.53 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, picked up $1.12, or 1.7 percent, to $67.69 a barrel in London.
TECH TAKES TOP SPOT: Technology companies rose further. Chipmaker Nvidia gained $11.27, or 5.7 percent, to $210.62. Business software maker Oracle advanced $1.27, or 2.7 percent, to $47.90 and IBM added $4.95, or 3.2 percent, to $159.20.
Intel traded lower after British technology site The Register said its processors have a security flaw and fixing the problem could slow down computers that use them. Intel did not immediately return a request for comment. Its stock lost $2.45, or 5.2 percent, to $44.40. Advanced Micro Devices, which was reportedly not affected by the problem, jumped 86 cents, or 7.8 percent, to $11.84.
ENERGY SURGE: Dominion Energy agreed to buy Scana in a deal that expands the Richmond, Virginia-based company's business in the Carolinas. Dominion Energy is valuing the deal at about $7.9 billion plus $6.7 billion in debt. Scana soared $8.56, or 22 percent, to $47.43 and Dominion dropped $3.72, or 4.6 percent, to $76.56.
Scana traded above $70 a share in June but plunged after Scana and partner Santee Cooper said they were abandoning construction of two new nuclear reactors. They blamed the project failure on the bankruptcy of contractor Westinghouse. Scana repeatedly raised rates after the failure was announced and customers of its South Carolina Electric & Gas unit have paid about $2 billion toward the company's debt on the project. The heads of both companies stepped down after the companies came under harsh criticism and multiple government investigations.
As part of the deal, SCANA customers will get a $1.3 billion cash payment and a modest rate reduction.
LOOK, MA, NO DEAL: Money transfer company MoneyGram International plunged $1.36, or 10.2 percent, to $11.95 after U.S. regulators blocked the sale of the company to Ant Financial Services Group. It's not clear why the $1.2 billion deal was rejected by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which reviews proposed foreign acquisitions of U.S. companies on national security grounds. Ant Financial is linked to Alibaba and its chairman, Jack Ma.
BATTERIES INCLUDED: Consumer products company Spectrum Brands said it will try to sell its batteries and appliances businesses. Spectrum, which makes Rayovac and Kwikset, wants to concentrate on its other divisions: hardware and home improvement, global auto care, global pet supplies and home and garden. The stock climbed $9.18, or 8.4 percent, to $118.54.
GET YOUR MOTOR RUNNING: Automakers are higher as they reported their December sales and final totals for 2017. General Motors climbed 98 cents, or 2.3 percent, to $42.78. Fiat Chrysler gained 55 cents, or 3 percent, to $18.99 and Ford inched up 12 cents to $12.78. Kelley Blue Book said overall sales for the year should finish at around 17.1 million. That's down 2 percent from 2016, but still one of the best years in history for the auto industry.
TALK TO ME: Roku jumped after it said it plans to add a voice-controlled digital assistant to its streaming TV players in an attempt to catch up with Google, Apple and Amazon. Investors were encouraged, although Google's Assistant, Apple's Siri and Amazon's Alexa have a broader range of capabilities. Roku gained $4.11, or 7.9 percent, to $56.18. Roku's stock has quadrupled since its IPO in late September.
BONDS: Bond prices rose after a sharp drop the day before. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.44 percent from 2.46 percent.
CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 112.34 yen from 112.27 yen. The euro dipped to $1.2024 from $1.2055.
OVERSEAS: Germany's DAX added 0.8 percent and so did the French CAC 40. In Britain the FTSE 100 rose 0.3 percent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index picked up 0.1 percent and South Korea's Kospi added 0.3 percent. Markets in Japan were closed for New Year holidays but reopen on Thursday.