US stock indexes higher in afternoon trading; oil rising

U.S. stock indexes edged higher in midday trading Thursday as investors weighed the latest batch of company earnings and deal news. Energy and industrial companies climbed, offsetting losses in utilities and real estate companies. Small-company stocks were faring better than the rest of the market. The price of crude oil rose.

KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 index rose 4 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,727 as of 12:17 p.m. Eastern Time. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 12 points, or 0.1 percent, to 24,781. The Nasdaq composite added 10 points, or 0.1 percent, to 7,409. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks picked up 9 points, or 0.6 percent, to 1,625, a day after it closed at an all-time high. Two stocks rose for every one that fell on the New York Stock Exchange.

SLICK DEAL: Williams Partners jumped 6.9 percent to $41.07 after it agreed to be acquired by oil pipeline company Williams Cos. in an all-stock deal they valued at $10.5 billion.

BEEFING UP: Kroger rose 1.6 percent to $25.35 after the supermarket operator said it’s increasing its investment in the British online grocer Ocado as it fends off and other online threats to traditional grocers. The subscription rights agreement will give Kroger access to Ocado’s online ordering, automated fulfillment and home delivery technology in the U.S.

A GOOD LOOK: Dillard’s climbed 5.7 percent to $76.13 after the department store chain’s latest quarterly results beat Wall Street’s expectations.

SWITCH OFF: Cisco slid 3.1 percent to $43.78 after the seller of routers, switches and software’s latest quarterly results disappointed investors. The slide in Cisco helped pull technology sector stocks lower.

WORRISOME OUTLOOK: J.C. Penney slumped 10.7 percent to $2.74 after the struggling department store chain said it might take a loss in 2018 as it cut its annual forecast.

BURGER BLAHS: Shares in Jack in the Box fell 7.5 percent to $84.50 after the burger chain reported disappointing results in its fiscal second quarter.

NOT WELL: Wells Fargo fell 1.7 percent to $54.09 after the Wall Street Journal reported that some employees in its business banking division improperly altered information on documents related to corporate customers.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude oil rose 16 cents, or 0.2 percent, to $71.65 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oil, rose 63 cents, or 0.8 percent, to $79.92 a barrel in London, its highest level since November 2014.

The rise in oil prices gave energy stocks a boost. Valero Energy gained 4.9 percent to $120.63.

BOND YIELDS: Bond prices were little changed. The yield on the 10-year Treasury held steady at 3.10 percent.

CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 110.73 yen from 110.25 yen on Wednesday. The euro weakened to $1.1799 from $1.1802.

MARKETS OVERSEAS: In Europe, Germany’s DAX gained 0.9 percent, while France’s CAC 40 rose 1 percent. Britain’s FTSE 100 added 0.7 percent. Major indexes in Asia finished mostly lower. Japan’s Nikkei 225 index added 0.5 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 0.5 percent. The Kospi in South Korea slid 0.5 percent.

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