US stocks edge higher; oil shares fall

Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange, May 30, 2019.
Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange, May 30, 2019.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (AFP) - Wall Street stocks eked out modest gains on Thursday (May 30) after two straight declines, even as petroleum-linked shares tumbled with oil prices.

Analysts said shares had been oversold during a weak May due to rising trade tensions and a drop in US Treasury bond yields that is seen as a harbinger of economic weakness.

Stocks again bobbled into negative territory at times on Thursday but the Dow Jones Industrial Average mustered a 0.2 per cent gain, rising to 25,169.88.

The broad-based S&P 500 also added 0.2 per cent at 2,788.86, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index climbed 0.3 per cent to 7,567.72.

In the latest step in the protracted trade war, Chinese state media continued to ramp up criticism of the United States, and Chinese authorities reportedly suspended state purchases of American soybeans.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note remained pressured, a sign of strong investor demand for bonds and skittishness towards stocks.

"US stocks are higher in afternoon action following two days of solid declines but the festering US-China trade uncertainty and resurfacing global growth fears that have pressured the markets and Treasury yields as of late are keeping a lid on the gains," said a note from Charles Schwab.

Petroleum-linked shares suffered after a bearish US oil inventory report prompted a drop in oil prices. Chevron fell 1.2 per cent, Halliburton 3.7 per cent and ConocoPhillips 2 per cent.

Occidental Petroleum dipped 0.2 per cent after longtime investor activist Carl Icahn sued the company following its deal to acquire Anadarko Petroleum.

The suit, which criticised the transaction, is a prelude to a possible Icahn challenge for board seats on Occidental after the Anadarko deal closes.