US stocks rise but oil prices spark fear

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Dec 10, 2014, in New York City. -- PHOTO: AFP
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Dec 10, 2014, in New York City. -- PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (AFP) - US stocks advanced Thursday following an upbeat retail sales report, but the gains were limited by concerns over the rapid fall in oil prices.

At the closing bell, the Dow Jones Industrial Average stood at 17,597.37, up 64.22 points (0.37 per cent).

The broad-based S&P 500 gained 9.16 (0.45 per cent) to 2,035.30, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index rose 24.14 (0.52 per cent) to 4,709.16.

The indices were in positive territory all day, but finished below their intra-session peaks, with the Dow trading above 17,750 at times.

"Investors are watching oil and they don't know what to make of it," said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank.

Key worries for investors include fears that a major hedge fund or bank could be hurt by a bad bet on oil, he said.

"There's a cloud hanging over the market," Ablin added.

Earlier, US government data showed that retail sales in November rose 0.7 per cent in a solid start to the holiday shopping season.