New York: The Dow rose on Tuesday as investors scooped up defensive shares, including Pfizer, while energy companies’ stocks climbed as oil hit a six-month high.
But the S&P was little changed and the Nasdaq fell as financial and technology shares declined after leading the recent rally from bear market lows.
Shares of Pfizer posted the biggest percentage gain in the Dow, rising 5.5% to $14.93, after positive comments from analysts at Credit Suisse First Boston following a meeting with the drug company’s management.
Energy shares also supported the market as US crude oil futures briefly touched $60 a barrel before settling up 35 cents at $58.85 on hopes an economic recovery may bolster fuel demand. Exxon Mobil Corp rose 2.2% to $70.82.
But worries over whether an apparent lack of incentives to drive the market higher would put an end to the rally helped put a cap on gains.
“We’re right at the precipice and people can’t decide if the rally’s still got room left or if we’re priced about right and due for a sell-off,” said Warren Simpson, managing director at Stephens Capital Management in Little Rock, Arkansas.
“The safe-haven mantra is back in force a bit today because obviously, we’re not out of the woods yet.”
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 50.34 points, or 0.60%, to 8,469.11. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index was off 0.89 points, or 0.10%, to 908.35. The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 15.32 points, or 0.88%, at 1,715.92.
Shares of chipmaker Intel Corp rose 3% to $15.67 in extended trade after the company’s chief executive said that order and billing patterns in the second quarter so far were a little better than expected.
In addition to Pfizer’s advance during the regular session, the shares of rival drugmaker and fellow Dow component Merck gained 2.4% to $24.98.
An analyst’s note suggested that Pfizer, the world’s largest drugmaker, would likely increase its dividend payment after it completes the acquisition of smaller rival Wyeth.
Coca-Cola ranked among the Dow’s biggest advancers, up 3.9% at $44.40 as consumer staples shares also benefited from the move into defensive stocks.
The broad S&P 500 is up 34.3% from the March low, spurred by optimism that the financial sector and economy are showing signs of stabilization. The index closed above 900 after having briefly fallen below the key support level during the session.
In economic news, data showed the US trade gap widened in March for the first time in eight months, signaling weak overseas demand.
On the downside, shares of Ford tumbled 17.6% to $5.01 a day after the automaker announced an offering of 300 million shares, while the Bank of New York Mellon said it sold $1.2 billion of common stock and its stock lost 3.8% to $28.43.
Investors worried that the new offerings were dilutive to existing shareholders as companies tried to raise cash to stay afloat, but others noted the ability to attract capital was a positive sign.
The KBW Bank Index dropped 4.2%, but is still more than double its 9 March closing level. Bank of America was the Dow’s biggest drag, down 5.3% at $12.26. The bank sold $7.3 billion of China Construction Bank Corp shares to a group of investors, according to a source.
Big-cap technology companies weighed on the Nasdaq, including Apple Inc, which lost 4 percent to $124.42. The Nasdaq 100 technology index fell 1.2%.
Trading was active on the New York Stock Exchange, with about 1.61 billion shares changing hands, above last year’s estimated daily average of 1.49 billion, while on Nasdaq, about 2.53 billion shares traded, above last year’s daily average of 2.28 billion.