Stocks muster gains

Wall Street ends a tough session in the plus column as seesawing oil prices and Yahoo news counter better May retail sales and a bid for Anheuser-Busch.

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By Alexandra Twin, senior writer

Should oil companies be allowed to drill in protected wildlife areas to increase the oil supply?
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NEW YORK ( -- Stocks struggled higher Thursday as investors weighed seesawing oil prices, a strong May retail sales report and news that a $46 billion bid for Anheuser-Busch could go through while a Yahoo-Microsoft tie-up isn't likely.

The Dow Jones industrial average (INDU) added 0.5%. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 (SPX) index gained 0.3% and the Nasdaq composite (COMP) added 0.4%.

Stocks rallied in the morning on Anheuser-Busch and slumping oil prices, but the advance lost steam in the afternoon as oil prices erased losses and turned higher.

The Yahoo news, released late afternoon, briefly sent stocks into negative territory, before investors managed to stage a recovery in the last minutes of the session.

Yahoo (YHOO, Fortune 500) shares plunged 10% in active Nasdaq trading on news that its talks with Microsoft (MSFT, Fortune 500) ended without a deal. (Full story)

Friday's Consumer Price Index (CPI) for May will be closely watched, amid worries about rising inflationary pressures. Friday also brings the release of the June consumer sentiment index from the University of Michigan.

Stocks tumbled Wednesday, sending the Dow down more than 200 points as oil spiked $5 a barrel and the Federal Reserve's 'Beige Book' survey showed continued economic weakness. Worries about inflation and the weakening economy remained in place Thursday, but were countered by some of the corporate news.

The bid for Anheuser-Busch in particular was significant, said Steven Rogé, portfolio manager at R.W. Rogé & Co.

"The fact that there is continued M&A activity in the market gives hope," he said, as it shows that U.S. companies are still valued internationally and that global business activity is holding up.

He said the May retail sales report was positive, but was probably not a meaningful indicator of consumer activity, as it was mostly driven by the tax rebate checks.

Retail sales: Sales jumped 1% in May, thanks to the government's economic stimulus plan, double what economists were expecting. Sales rose 0.4% in April. Sales excluding volatile auto sales rose 1.2% in May, versus forecasts for a rise of 0.7%. Sales ex-autos rose 1% in April. (Full story)

Beer buyout: Anheuser-Busch (BUD, Fortune 500) said late Wednesday that Belgian rival InBev has made a more than $46 billion offer for the maker of Budweiser, confirming earlier speculation that a merger was brewing. Bud shares jumped 5.2%. (Full story)

Lehman Brothers and other stock movers: The troubled financial firm said it was replacing two top executives, including its chief financial officer, just days after announcing a massive $2.8 billion quarterly loss. Lehman (LEH, Fortune 500) stock lost 4.4%. (Full story).

Other financial stocks rallied, including Bank of America (BAC, Fortune 500), Citigroup (C, Fortune 500) and JP Morgan Chase (JPM, Fortune 500).

Citigroup jumped on news that it's closing the Old Lane Partners hedge fun once run by its CEO. (Full story).

The sector as a whole benefited from a Morgan Stanley upgrade to "neutral" from "underweight," AP reported.

Chevron (CVX, Fortune 500) and Exxon Mobil (XOM, Fortune 500) were among the energy stocks sliding in response to plunging oil prices.

Market breadth was positive. On the New York Stock Exchange, winners topped losers by a narrow margin on volume of around 1.33 billion shares. On the Nasdaq, advancers beat decliners by a slim margin on volume of 2.28 billion shares.

Jobless claims: The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment last week jumped 25,000 to 384,000, up from a revised reading of 359,000 in the previous week. Economists expected a rise to 360,000, according to a survey. (Full story).

Oil prices retreat: U.S. light crude oil for July delivery rose 36 cents to settle at $136.74 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, after having slumped more than $4 a barrel in morning trade.

Gas hits new record: The national average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gas rose to a record $4.060 from the previous day's record of $4.052, AAA reported.

Other markets: The dollar rose versus the euro and yen.

Treasury prices tumbled, raising the yield on the benchmark 10-year note to 4.21% from 4.07% late Wednesday. Bond prices and yields move in opposite directions.

COMEX gold for August delivery fell $10.90 to settle at $872 an ounce. To top of page

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