Markets close higher as oil passes $90

chart_ws_index_dow.top.pngClick the chart for more on stocks. By Julianne Pepitone, staff reporter


NEW YORK(CNNMoney.com) -- Stocks climbed to hit fresh two-year highs Wednesday, as investors begin to pack up for the holidays and prepare for 2011.

The Dow Jones industrial average (INDU) added 26 points to end 0.2% higher at 11,559.49 -- its highest level since August 28, 2008.

The S&P 500 (SPX) added 0.3% to end at its highest level since September 19, 2008. Meanwhile the tech-heavy Nasdaq (COMP) ticked up 0.2% to its highest settle since December 28, 2007.

The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq have posted gains for 14 of the month's 16 trading sessions so far. All three major indexes are positioned for double-digit gains for the year.

Oil prices were in the spotlight Wednesday after a weekly report showed crude stockpiles dropped by 5.3 million barrels last week. The report sent crude prices up to settle at about $90.48 a barrel. Oil prices haven't settled above $90 a barrel since October 2008.

Stock trading is expected to be light heading into the holiday season. But while there's little news on tap for the rest of the year, stocks have trended upward. Bank stocks were the bright spot Wednesday, with Bank of America (BAC, Fortune 500) and JPMorgan (JPM, Fortune 500) each ending about 3% higher.

"It's a non-event day for the market," said Sal Arnuk, co-head of trading at Themis Trading. "But it's been a great year. So for most of December, traders have been locking in their performance for 2010."

Investors are feeling bullish for 2011, Arnuk said, as economic numbers have begun improving. But they're still waiting for corporations to spend the cash they have sitting on balance sheets by hiring new workers.

On Tuesday, the major indexes rose modestly but managed to close at their highest levels in more than two years. Also on Tuesday,Congress approved a temporary spending bill late Tuesday that will fund the government for another 10 weeks.

Economy: The Commerce Department said the economy grew 2.6% in the third quarter -- slightly more than the 2.5% previously reported. The third and final take on third-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) was slightly less than the 2.7% expected by economists.

After the opening bell, National Association of Realtors' monthly report said sales of previously-owned homes jumped 5.6% in November to an annual rate of 4.68 million. The rate was down 27.9% from 12 months earlier.

Companies: Before the opening bell, Walgreen Co. (WAG, Fortune 500) reported record quarterly earnings and sales for the first quarter of fiscal year 2011. Earnings per share rose 62 cents for the quarter ended Nov. 30 -- blowing past analyst expectations of 54 cents. The pharmacy's profits jumped 18.8% to $580 million, up from $489 million in the same quarter a year ago. Shares of Walgreen ended 5.5% higher.

American Airlines severed its relationship with online travel site Orbitz after an Illinois court said the airline could cancel its contracts. Shares of its holding company, AMR Corp. (AMR, Fortune 500), fell 1.2%.

World markets: European stocks ended mixed. Britain's FTSE 100 added 0.5%, the DAX in Germany lost 0.1% and France's CAC 40 fell 0.2%.

The U.K.'s GDP growth was revised down to 0.7% in the third quarter -- down from 0.8% previously published, according to the Office for National Statistics in the United Kingdom. Even though the country's economic output was revised slightly lower, it remained 2.7% higher than the same quarter last year.

Asian markets ended the session mixed. The Shanghai Composite fell 0.9% and Japan's Nikkei shaved 0.2%, while the Hang Seng in Hong Kong added 0.2%.

Currencies and commodities: The dollar was down against the euro and the Japanese yen, and it was up slightly against the British pound.

Gold futures for February delivery fell $1.40 to settle at $1,387.40 an ounce.

Copper prices have been on a tear lately -- the metal is up nearly 30% this year. In particular, China's booming economy consumes about 35% to 40% of the world's annual copper output.

Bonds: The price on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury ticked lower, pushing the yield up to 3.34% from 3.33% late Tuesday.  To top of page

Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Overnight Avg Rate Latest Change Last Week
30 yr fixed4.19%4.26%
15 yr fixed3.23%3.27%
5/1 ARM3.34%3.45%
30 yr refi4.17%4.23%
15 yr refi3.21%3.25%
Rate data provided
by Bankrate.com
View rates in your area
 
Find personalized rates:
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 16,982.59 22.02 0.13%
Nasdaq 4,444.91 -4.65 -0.10%
S&P 500 1,978.91 0.57 0.03%
Treasuries 2.49 0.02 0.89%
Data as of 11:09pm ET
Company Price Change % Change
Apple Inc 99.02 1.35 1.38%
Facebook Inc 74.92 -0.27 -0.36%
Bank of America Corp... 15.50 -0.09 -0.58%
Dollar Tree Inc 54.87 -0.08 -0.15%
Family Dollar Stores... 75.74 15.08 24.86%
Data as of 4:03pm ET

Sections

Herbalife shares tumble after the maker of nutritional supplements reports earnings that fall short of analysts' estimates. More

New annual report from U.S. government shows the long-term prognosis for Medicare has improved thanks to slower health spending, while the outlook for Social Security remains unchanged. More

Online dating site OkCupid found its users were more likely to have conversations when it told them they were more compatible than in reality. More

Actor-founded This Bar Saves Lives had Hollywood connections, but learned Start-Up 101 the hard way. More

Steve Mason, a pastor from California, inherited more than $100,000 in student loan debt when his 27-year-old daughter died suddenly in 2009. With interest and late penalties, the debt has since ballooned to $200,000. More

Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.