Stock indexes near records as car makers and retailers rise

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks climbed Wednesday as investors bought shares of companies focused on consumers, including automakers and retailers. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index finished a single point below its all-time high.

General Motors and Ford jumped as car companies reported generally strong sales for the month of December. Companies that mine for metals and make chemicals and other materials climbed as the dollar receded a bit from its recent highs. Small-company stocks picked up where they left off in 2017 as the Russell 2000 index outpaced other major indexes and missed a record close by a whisker.

Investors snapped up consumer-focused stocks that haven’t done much celebrating since the election, like apparel and accessories retailers and discount store chains. Urban Outfitters is down about 11 percent the election and Gap has fallen almost that much.

“They were afterthoughts in a lot of respects,” said Julian Emanuel, an equity strategist for UBS. But Emanuel said he expects those stocks to rise this year because consumer confidence remains high.

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The Dow Jones industrial average added 60.40 points, or 0.3 percent, to 19,942.16. The blue-chip index was held back by small losses from energy giant Exxon Mobil and insurer Travelers.

The S&P 500 jumped 12.92 points, or 0.6 percent, to 2,270.75. The Nasdaq composite rose 47.92 points, or 0.9 percent, to 5,477. The Russell 2000 outpaced the other indexes and advanced 22.46 points, or 1.6 percent, to 1,387.95.

Companies that sell clothes, jewelry, athletic gear and discount goods have fallen or lagged behind the market over the last two months. That changed a bit on Wednesday. Gap rose 72 cents, or 3.1 percent, to $24.20. Discount retailer Dollar Tree, which has slumped since late November, picked up $2, or 2.6 percent, to $79.45.

Under Armour added 81 cents, or 3.1 percent, to $26.57 and auto parts supplier Delphi Automotive gained $2.50, or 3.7 percent, to $70.04. Delphi said Wednesday it bought Movimento, an automotive software company.

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General Motors said its total U.S. sales climbed 10 percent last month from a year ago and its stock rose $1.94, or 5.5 percent, to $37.09. Ford climbed 58 cents, or 4.6 percent, to $13.17. That came as U.S. vehicle sales set records for the seventh year in a row. Sales are expected to slip in 2017.

Companies that mine for metals and make basic materials rose as the dollar slipped away from recent highs.

Freeport-McMoRan climbed $1.05, or 7.6 percent, to $14.83 as the price of copper jumped. Other materials makers also rose. Chemicals maker LyondellBassell Industries added $1.91, or 2.2 percent, to $88.79 and Mosaic picked up $1.28, or 4.3 percent, to $30.81.

The dollar slipped to 117.60 yen from 117.68 yen. The euro edged up to $1.0467 from $1.0410.

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Rental car company Hertz climbed $1.11, or 4.9 percent, to $23.63 after investor Gamco Asset Management increased its stake in the company to 5.1 percent. A number of other activist investors own stock in Hertz. The largest by far is billionaire Carl Icahn, who holds a 35 percent stake.

Shake Shack rose $2.77, or 7.7 percent, to $38.90. The company will be added to the S&P SmallCap 600 index after the close of trading Wednesday. When a company is added to a major stock index it typically trades higher as it’s added to various portfolios. The burger chain replaced Chemours, a former unit of DuPont, which became part of the S&P 500.

Oil prices bounced back from early losses. Benchmark U.S. crude picked up 93 cents, or 1.8 percent, to $53.26 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, gained 99 cents, or 1.8 percent, to $56.46 a barrel in London. The price of natural gas fell another 1.8 percent, to $3.33 per 1,000 cubic feet, after a drop of almost 11 percent Tuesday.

Bond prices inched higher. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.44 percent from 2.45 percent.

In other energy trading, wholesale gasoline rose 2 cent to $1.65 a gallon. Heating oil edged up 2 cents to $1.69 a gallon.

Gold picked up $3.30 to $1,165.30 an ounce and silver added 14 cents to $16.55 an ounce. Copper closed up 7 cents, or 2.7 percent, at $2.56 a pound.

France’s CAC 40 and the DAX in Germany both finished little changed. The FTSE 100 of Britain rose 0.2 percent to set another all-time high. Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 added 2.5 percent in its first trading day of 2017. That was partly because the weak yen will help Japanese exporters like Honda. South Korea’s Kospi gained nearly 0.1 percent and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng dipped 0.1 percent.