US Markets

Stock gains cut by oil's fall, Washington inaction

CB Exchange: Big rally fades

U.S. stocks advanced on Thursday, cutting weekly losses, but euphoria over increased retail sales in November faded as oil fell to another five-year low and renewed worries of a government shutdown.

Stocks finished far off session highs, with Wall Street starting to dial back gains after crude dropped below $60 a barrel, and the pullback escalated amid efforts to block a spending bill in the House, sparking worries of the government closing.

"It's a combination of oil dipping below key support levels and trepidation over Washington's inability to get something accomplished," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities.

Stocks had rallied, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average surging as much as 225 points, after figures from the Commerce Department had retail sales rising 0.7 percent last month, the largest increase in eight months.

"The consumer is absolutely feeling better. Their homes are worth more, their 401ks are worth more, and they are paying less at the gas pump; holiday spending is doing much better than I would have guessed six months ago," said Patty Edwards, managing director for investments at U.S. Bank Wealth Management.

"We've been expecting lower gas prices were going to help the consumer, and that is obviously bearing out. On the electronics side, people are buying gadgets. The other thing I've been saying is that people are staying in their homes, and spending at big-box home-improvement retailers," Edwards added.

"Retail sales are driving things, they were very strong," said Chris Gaffney, senior market strategist at EverBank Wealth Management.

"This movement today to me crystallizes that investors are starting to believe that the equity market can stand on its own, that it's not necessarily dependent on the Fed," Gaffney added of the Federal Reserve, and concerns about what would occur once the U.S. central bank begins raising benchmark interest rates.

After the stronger-than-expected retail report, the National Retail Federation told CNBC its forecast "is right on track" for a 4.1 percent sales growth this holiday season.

"The lower oil prices are good for the global economy. It's not good for the energy sector, down nearly 15 percent year to date, and that is a drag on the broader market, but lower gas prices are good for the consumer. A second thing it does is keep inflation expectations lower, which gives the Fed more room to keep rates lower for longer," said Gaffney.

Separately, the Labor Department reported fewer Americans filed unemployment claims last week.

Major U.S. Indexes

After spiking more than 50 percent during the last three sessions, the CBOE Volatility Index on Thursday rose 8.4 percent to 20.08.

Halting a three-session loss streak, the Dow Jones Industrial Average ended at 17,596.34, up 63.19 points, or 0.4 percent, with Walt Disney leading blue-chip gains that included 24 of its 30 components.

The added 9.19 points, or 0.5 percent, to 2,035.33, with utilities the best performing of its 10 major industry groups, all of which advanced.

The Nasdaq gained 24.14 points, or 0.5 percent, to 4,708.16.

For every three shares falling, roughly four rose on the New York Stock Exchange, where 824 million shares traded. Composite volume neared 4 billion.

A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
Getty Images

Speaking at a conference in New York on Thursday, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew called lower energy costs an unquestioned positive for the U.S. economy.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, oil futures for January delivery fell 99 cents, or 1.6 percent, to $59.95 a barrel, its lowest since July 2009. Gold futures for February delivery dropped $3.80, or 0.3 percent, to $1,225.60 an ounce.

The U.S. dollar gained against other global currencies and the yield on the 10-year Treasury note added a basis point to 2.1762 percent.

On Wednesday, U.S. stocks closed sharply lower, furthering the week's losses, as the price of crude fell to a new five-year low and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries cut its demand outlook for next year.

Santa 'pause' rally?

Coming Up This Week:


8:30 a.m.: PPI

9:55 a.m.: Consumer sentiment

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