Originally Published: January 3, 2018 2:48 p.m.
NEW YORK (AP) — Technology companies are once again leading U.S. stocks Wednesday as indexes head for more record 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 2,711 as of 3:30 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average added 70 points, or 0.3 percent, to 24,894. The Nasdaq composite climbed 57 points, or 0.8 percent, to 7,064. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks gained 4 points, or 0.3 percent, 1,554.
ENERGY: Oil prices are at two-and-a-half-year highs and are still rising. One reason is that investors are concerned that a pipeline bombing in Libya last month and protests in Iran could reduce oil supplies.
"Something that's coming back into the market which we've been missing over the last few years is this geopolitical risk premium," said Nick Koutsoftas, portfolio manager at Cohen & Steers. Investors didn't worry that much about those risks because big stockpiles of oil built up over the last few years. But those disruptions are becoming a concern again because production has decreased and inventories are down.
Benchmark U.S. crude added $1.26, or 2.1 percent, to $61.63 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, picked up $1.27, or 1.8 percent, to $67.84 a barrel in London.
FEELING A CHILL: Heating oil and natural gas prices have also climbed as severe cold gripped much of the U.S. Heating oil rose 3 cents to $2.09 a gallon, and it's up 12 cents since Dec. 22. Natural gas slid 5 cents to $3.01 per 1,000 cubic feet, and it's up 34 cents over that time.
In other commodities trading, wholesale gasoline added 3 cents to $1.80 a gallon.
TECH TAKES TOP SPOT: Technology companies rose further. Chipmaker Nvidia gained $12.84, or 6.4 percent, to $212.19. Business software maker Oracle advanced $1.15, or 2.5 percent, to $47.79 and IBM added $4.18, or 2.7 percent, to $158.43.
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 $1.79, or 4.8 percent, to $45.07. Advanced Micro Devices, which was reportedly not affected by the problem, jumped 68 cents, or 6.2 percent, to $11.66.
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 $8.89, or 22.9 percent, to $47.76 and Dominion dropped $3.06, or 3.8 percent, to $77.22.
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 to cover some of its debt on the project. The heads of both companies stepped down after the companies came under harsh criticism and multiple government investigations.
LOOK, MA, NO DEAL: Money transfer company MoneyGram International plunged $1.23, or 9.2 percent, to $12.08 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 $9.13, or 8.3 percent, to $118.49.
METALS: Gold inched up $2.40 to $1,318.50 an ounce. Silver added 6 cents to $17.27 an ounce. Copper slipped 2 cents to $3.26 a pound.
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 112.52 yen from 112.27 yen. The euro dipped to $1.2018 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.
AP Markets Writer Marley Jay can be reached at http://twitter.com/MarleyJayAP His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/marley%20jayt