Oil shares gain as US stocks end mostly higher

The benchmark S&P 500 eked out a gain as strength in the energy and consumer sectors offset declines in financial shares and investors began looking ahead to first-quarter earnings season.
EU Council President Donald Tusk holds British Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit letter on March 29, 2017.
EU Council President Donald Tusk holds British Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit letter on March 29, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (AFP) - Gains by petroleum-linked shares helped US stocks finish mostly higher on Wednesday (March 29) amid lingering uncertainty over Britain's move to formally launch negotiations to leave the European Union.

Shares of petroleum producers and suppliers were strong as oil prices rallied following a smaller-than-expected increase in American stockpiles. Halliburton rose 2.5 per cent and EOG Resources 1.8 per cent.

Beyond that, there were relatively few trading catalysts during the US session as far as economic data or corporate news. Analysts cited unease at the start of the Brexit process, even though it was expected.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended the session down 0.2 per cent to 20,659.32.

The broad-based S&P 500 gained 0.1 per cent to close the day at 2,361.13, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index climbed 0.4 per cent to 5,897.55.

Several leading retailers scored gains, with Target adding 2.9 per cent, Dollar Tree 2.6 per cent and Wal-Mart Stores 0.6 per cent.

Technology winners included Amazon, up 2.1 per cent, and Google parent Alphabet, up 1.3 per cent.

Vertex Pharmaceuticals surged 20.5 per cent after releasing promising clinical results of a drug therapy combination for the treatment of cystic fibrosis.

Luxury furnishing retailer Restoration Hardware shot up 14.9 per cent after projecting first-quarter revenues of between US$530 million (S$738 million) and US$545 million, well above the US$485 million expected by Wall Street analysts.