US stocks end mostly higher as oil cuts losses

NEW YORK (AFP) - Wall Street stocks finished mostly higher Thursday, picking up momentum after the oil market strengthened in response to news of lower US drilling activity.

But the gains were not enough to offset declines earlier in the week, resulting in the first weekly loss after five straight weeks of gains. US markets are closed Friday.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 13.14 points (0.08 per cent) to 17,515.73.

The broad-based S&P 500 dipped 0.77 (0.04 per cent) to 2,035.94, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index rose 4.64 (0.1 per cent) to 4,773.50.

US stocks were in the red most of the day following data showing lackluster US durable goods orders and slightly higher jobless claims.

But oil prices cut their losses after the weekly Baker Hughes rig count showed a drop of 15 oil rigs operating in the US, suggesting production will continue to fall slowly.

The rally in stocks “is a little bit of a reaction to oil coming back,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities.

Yahoo added 0.2 per cent as activist fund Starboard Value announced it would nominate a slate of nine directors as part of a push to overhaul the struggling Internet pioneer.

Office Depot jumped 9 per cent and Staples 7 per cent after a US judge rebuked the Federal Trade Commission in connection with the agency’s lawsuit to block their merger on antitrust grounds.

US District Judge Emmet Sullivan said the FTC tried to persuade a witness to give false testimony in the case, Bloomberg News reported. The government has argued the merger will adversely affect competition in the office supplies market.

Consultancy Accenture climbed 6.2 per cent after reporting that second-quarter earnings jumped 92 per cent to US$1.3 billion.

Apparel maker PVH, which owns the Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger brands, jumped 7.6 per cent after reporting that fourth-quarter earnings were US$134.2 million, up from US$51.5 million in the year-ago period.