U.S. stocks edged higher in early trading Thursday as investors sized up quarterly results for big department store chains and other companies. A forecast calling for slower global demand for oil next year helped boost crude prices. Consumer-focused companies, energy and technology stocks were among the biggest gainers.
KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average rose 54 points, or 0.3 percent, to 18,549 as of 10:09 a.m. Eastern time. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index added three points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,179. The Nasdaq composite index gained 10 points, or 0.2 percent, to 5,215.
BEATING THE STREET: Macy’s and Kohl’s surged after the department store chains reported quarterly results that beat Wall Street’s expectations. Macy’s also said it plans to close about 100 stores next year as it tries to become more nimble in a competitive market. The stock rose $5.40, or 15.7 percent, to $39.34. Shares in Kohl’s jumped $5.95, or 15.6 percent, to $43.98.
RETAILERS RISE: Investors bid up shares in several other retailers. Nordtsrom gained $3.75, or 8.5 percent, to $47.98, while Gap added 98 cents, or 4.1 percent, to $25.01. Tiffany rose $2.31, or 3.6 percent, to $65.98.
EATING IT UP: Brinker International jumped 7.6 percent after the owner of the Chili’s Bar & Grill and Maggiano’s Little Italy chains reported strong quarterly results. The company also said it will return more cash to shareholders by taking on new debt to buy back stock. Its shares rose $3.50 to $50.52.
SHAKEN: Hamburger chain Shake Shack slumped 7.1 percent after it said sales at older locations slowed down in the latest quarter. The stock shed $2.93 to $37.95.
MALL WOES: Some of the nation’s biggest mall and shopping center owners were trading lower. General Growth Properties fell 61 cents, or 2 percent, to $30.11, while Simon Property Group shed $2.39, or 1.1 percent, at $216.59. Kimco Realty slid 33 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $30.74.
OIL: Crude oil prices were moving higher after the International Energy Agency said global oil demand won’t grow as much as expected next year because of the weaker global economy. The IEA now expects demand to rise by 1.2 million barrels a day, slower than the 1.4 million barrels a day seen this year.
Benchmark U.S. crude was up 44 cents, or 1.1 percent, at $42.15 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, was up 62 cents, or 1.4 percent, at $44.66 in London.
LAYOFFS PROXY: Applications for new unemployment benefits fell slightly last week to 266,000. The decline suggests employers are confident enough in the economy to hold onto their staffs. Weekly applications have been below 300,000 for 75 straight weeks, the longest such stretch since 1970.
MARKETS OVERSEAS: In Europe, Germany’s DAX rose 0.8 percent, while France’s CAC 40 was up 0.9 percent. Britain’s FTSE 100 shed 0.2 percent after a report from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors showed house price growth was at its lowest in three years following Britain’s vote to exit the European Union. In Asia, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index closed 0.4 percent higher, while China’s Shanghai Composite slipped 0.5 percent. South Korea’s KOSPI edged up 0.2 percent. Japan’s stock exchange was closed for a holiday.
BONDS AND CURRENCIES: Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 1.52 percent from 1.50 late Wednesday. In currency markets, the dollar strengthened to 101.23 yen from 101.29 on Wednesday. The euro weakened to $1.1173 from $1.1175.