December 19, 2014
Wall Street ends up slightly on M&A; Iraq closely watched
US stocks closed slightly higher today, supported by a flurry of merger news, but turmoil in Iraq drove oil prices up and kept trading choppy.
Energy stocks were the day's winners, with the S&P energy index up 0.5 percent. The S&P financial sector index was the biggest decliner, down 0.4 percent.
The United States said it is considering air strikes and cooperation with its arch-enemy, Iran, to help the Iraqi government fend off an Islamist insurgency.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 5.27 points or 0.03 percent, to end at 16,781.01. The S&P 500 gained 1.62 points or 0.08 percent, to 1,937.78. The Nasdaq Composite added 10.45 points or 0.24 percent, to 4,321.11.
European stocks edged lower, adding to last week's retreat, as mounting violence from Iraq to Kenya weighed on travel shares and prompted investors to cash in on recent outperformers.
Airline easyJet and cruise operators Carnival both fell more than 1 percent as Brent crude rose to nearly $113 per barrel on concerns over disruptions to oil exports from Iraq, the second-largest OPEC producer.
While airlines tend to lock in prices for their immediate fuel needs using financial derivatives known as hedges, higher oil prices in the coming months would affect future profits.The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares shed 0.4 percent to 1,383.95 points, retreating further from a 6-1/2 year high hit last week. The euro zone's blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 fell 0.7 percent to 3,261.42 points.
Meanwhile, Japanese stocks dropped to a two-week low today as oil prices extended gains as the insurgency in Iraq raised concerns about potential disruption to oil exports, but chip-related firms outperformed on Intel Corp's rosy outlook.
The Nikkei fell 1.1 percent to 14,933.29, the lowest closing price since May 30.
The broader Topix dropped 0.8 percent to 1,234.68, while the JPX-Nikkei Index 400 declined 0.8 percent to 11,238.01.