US stocks edge higher as winning streak enters its 6th day

Friday, February 16, 2018, Vol. 42, No. 7

NEW YORK (AP) — An early afternoon slump wiped out some big gains for stocks Friday, but major indexes are mostly higher as the market heads for its sixth gain in a row. Investors were fleeing the market early this month, but a combination of lower prices and rising company profits have them hurrying to buy stocks again.

KEEPING SCORE: After climbing throughout the morning and then quickly shedding their gains early in the afternoon, the Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 3 points, or 0.1 percent, at 2,734 as of 2:45 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 35 points, or 0.1 percent, to 25,235. At around 12:30 p.m., it was up 232 points. The Nasdaq composite lost 8 points, or 0.1 percent, to 7,247. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks climbed 6 points, or 0.4 percent, to 1,543.

The S&P 500 plunged 10 percent in nine days at the start of February. It's up 6 percent in the last six days. That includes a gain of 4.4 percent this week, which would be its best since January 2013.

HOME SWEET HOME: Construction of new homes jumped 9.7 percent in January, according to the Commerce Department. That was the highest level since October 2016, and permits, a sign of future construction, also climbed. NVR gained $116.35, or 3.8 percent, to $3,193.35 while D.R. Horton rose 59 cents, or 1.3 percent, to $45.70.

ON TOP AGAIN: Technology and health care companies led stocks higher last year. In a typical market downturn, investors might avoid stocks that have had huge run-ups out of fear they had gotten too expensive. That hasn't happened this time. Instead, investors are still betting on more strength in the economy and are buying companies that tend to do better in times of faster growth. Since the market hit its low point on Feb. 8, the S&P 500 technology index is up 9 percent and the health care index has risen 5.6 percent.

On Friday Apple climbed 56 cents to $173.55 and chipmaker Applied Materials rose $1.45, or 2.7 percent, to $55.44. Among health care companies, Johnson & Johnson gained $2.14, or 1.6 percent, to $133.37 and AbbVie jumped $3.11, or 2.7 percent, to $118.01.

Now that stocks have stopped plunging, investors are focusing on the strong results companies posted in the fourth quarter.

"Analysts continue to underestimate the pace of global growth," wrote Credit Suisse analyst Jonathan Golub. "As a result, more companies are beating/hitting expectations than in any quarter in 20 years."

DEERE ROLLING IN 'DOE': Farm equipment maker Deere climbed $3.66, or 2.2 percent, to $170.47 after it raised its profit and sales forecasts for the year.

NOT SATISFIED: Kraft Heinz had a weak quarter as sales of cheeses and cold cuts declined. The maker of Oscar Mayer meats, Jell-O pudding and Velveeta cheese fell $2.53, or 3.5 percent, to $70.18. Campbell Soup said sales of fresh foods declined, while soup sales continued to fall because of a dispute with a customer about how to promote them. Analyst said that customer is Walmart. Campbell shares lost $1.63, or 3.4 percent, to $46.07.

BAD FIT: VF Corp., the owner of brands such as Vans, North Face and Timberland, reported a solid quarter, but analysts said they expected better after several months of unusually cold winter weather. VF also said it will sell its Nautica apparel brand. With the stock up more than 50 percent over the last year, that wasn't enough to keep the gains coming. The shares lost $8.72, or 10.4 percent, to $75.22.

BONDS: Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.87 percent from 2.91 percent.

ENERGY: U.S. crude oil picked up 34 cents to $61.68 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, added 61 cents to $64.94 a barrel in London.

Natural gas rose 2 cents to $1.75 a gallon. Heating oil added 2 cents to $1.91 a gallon. Natural gas slipped 2 cents to $2.56 per 1,000 cubic feet.

METALS: Gold inched up 90 cents to $1,356.20 an ounce. Silver lost 8 cents to $16.71 an ounce. Copper stayed at $3.25 a pound.

CURRENCIES: The dollar edged up to 106.29 yen from 106.27 yen. The euro fell to $1.2414 from $1.2506.

OVERSEAS: The CAC 40 of France climbed 1.1 percent after a strong gain a day ago. Germany's DAX added 0.9 percent while the FTSE 100 in Britain gained 0.8 percent. In Japan, the Nikkei 225 index climbed 1.2 percent. Markets in China and South Korea were closed for lunar new year celebrations.


AP Markets Writer Marley Jay can be reached at . His work can be found at .