US stocks move higher in early trading; Oracle slumps as strong dollar crimps earnings

EnergyAssociated Press

U.S. stocks moved higher in early trading Thursday, extending gains a day after the Federal Reserve left interest rates unchanged from historically low levels. Health care stocks were among the biggest gainers.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average rose 156 points, or 0.9 percent, to 18,091 at 10:14 a.m. Eastern Time. The Standard & Poor's 500 index added 15 points, or 0.8 percent, to 2,116. The Nasdaq composite gained 54 points, or 1 percent, to 5,119.

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GROCERY STANDOUT: Kroger gained 1.6 percent after the supermarket operator's latest quarterly result beat expectations. The company also delivered an upgraded sales forecast. Shares rose $1.14 to $74.05.

DOLLAR EFFECT: Shares in Oracle sank 8.2 percent a day after the software company reported earnings that fell short of analysts' expectations. Oracle said that the stronger dollar continued to hurt its earnings. The stock fell $3.67 to $41.25.

THE FED: The central bank said Wednesday that it wants to see further economic gains and higher inflation before raising interest rates from record lows. The policymakers, while noting a strengthening economy, sharply lowered their estimate of growth this year, from a range of 2.3 percent to 2.7 percent estimated in March to a range of 1.8 percent to 2 percent. While investors welcome news of a delayed rate increase, the lower forecasts could dampen earnings expectations.

GREEK DRAMA: Investors were monitoring events in Europe, where Greece and its international lenders are deadlocked in bailout talks. Greece needs more loans from its creditors before June 30, when its current bailout program expires and a 1.6 billion euro ($1.8 billion) debt repayment is due. Greece and its creditors blame one another for an impasse in the talks. A default could result in Greece leaving the euro currency bloc, dealing a blow to the project.

EUROPEAN STOCKS: In Europe, Britain's FTSE 100 dipped 0.2 percent and Germany's DAX dropped 0.5 percent. France's CAC 40 declined 0.7 percent. Germany's benchmark index is on track for its third straight month of losses.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude added 49 cents to $60.41 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract closed up 5 cents at $59.92 per barrel in New York on Wednesday.

CURRENCIES: The dollar weakened to 122.66 yen from 123.58 yen on Wednesday. The euro strengthened slightly to $1.1404 from $1.1354.

BONDS: In government bond trading, prices edged lower. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.33 percent from 2.32 percent late Wednesday.