U.S. Stocks Little Changed as Higher Oil Prices Buoy Energy Shares

By Christopher Whittall and Aaron Kuriloff Features Dow Jones Newswires

U.S. stocks hovered around the flatline Wednesday as a climb in oil prices boosted energy shares.

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The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 17 points, or less than 0.1%, to 20959. The S&P 500 edged up less than 0.1%, and the Nasdaq Composite slipped less than 0.1%.

Energy shares in the S&P 500 rose 1.2% as oil prices surged. U.S. crude oil rose 3.5% to $47.49 a barrel after data showed U.S. crude stockpiles fell more than analysts expected last week.

Chevron gained 1.4% and Exxon Mobil added 0.7% in the Dow industrials.

Consumer discretionary shares in the S&P 500 slipped 0.5%. Dow component Walt Disney fell 2.4% after late Tuesday reporting a smaller-than-expected increase in revenue for its fiscal second quarter.

Major stock indexes have gained in recent weeks as corporate earnings have exceeded analysts' expectations. U.S. companies have largely beat estimates, with most S&P 500 companies now having reported results, according to FactSet.

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With the earnings season now drawing to a close, some investors said the Trump administration needs to deliver on proposed tax cuts for equity markets to climb further.

"We have had a very good reporting season, but...we really need the tax cuts" for equity markets to push higher, said Monica Defend, head of global asset allocation research at Pioneer Investments.

Moves were muted after the unexpected firing of James Comey, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, though some investors expressed concern that Mr. Comey's departure could stoke tensions between the White House and Congress.

U.S. government bonds prices rose modestly Wednesday. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note declined to 2.388%, according to Tradeweb, from 2.405% Tuesday. The WSJ Dollar Index, which measures the U.S. currency against a basket of 16 others, was down 0.1% recently.

The Stoxx Europe 600 rose 0.2% to its highest level since August 2015.

Many investors see good reasons to be upbeat on European stocks. The European corporate earnings season is on track for its strongest quarter in a decade, according to a recent report from Morgan Stanley. Meanwhile, the victory of centrist Emmanuel Macron in French presidential elections has allowed investors to look past political risks and refocus on economic fundamentals.

"The French elections have loomed large...as a potential restraining force on risk appetite," said Michael Metcalfe, head of global macro strategy at State Street Global Markets.

"Assuming that earnings growth continues...and we see this expected rebound in the hard data" then markets can continue to push higher, he added.

South Korea's Kospi index fell 1% following the conclusion of presidential elections in that country. Moon Jae-in's victory in those elections on Tuesday has prompted investor caution given his support for closer ties with North Korea.

The Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.9% after a small gain on Tuesday snapped a five-day losing streak. Some analysts expect a high-profile regulatory crackdown to weigh on Chinese shares.

Japan's Nikkei Stock Average rose 0.3%, while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 reversed early losses to close 0.6% higher.

Write to Christopher Whittall at christopher.whittall@wsj.com and Aaron Kuriloff at aaron.kuriloff@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 10, 2017 12:42 ET (16:42 GMT)