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Stocks edge higher behind media companies and retailers

🕐 4 min read

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are mostly higher Monday as media companies and retailers gain ground and energy companies slip. Hotel chains Starwood and Marriott are climbing again as Chinese insurance company Anbang Insurance Group makes another effort to buy Starwood.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average rose 27 points, or 0.2 percent, to 17,542 as of 3:05 p.m. Eastern time. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose two points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,038. The Nasdaq composite index lost three points, or 0.1 percent, to 4,770.

Stocks have flagged over the last few days after a five-week rally. The S&P 500 has fallen for three days in a row.

ALL STARWOOD: The bidding for the Starwood Hotel chain continued as a group of investors led by China’s Anbang Insurance Group offered to buy the company for $15 billion. Starwood said the offer looks better than a $14.4 billion bid from rival Marriott. Starwood added $1.66, or 2 percent, to $83.79. It’s up 19 percent in the last two weeks.

BOOKING: Marriott stock added $2.57, or 3.7 percent, to $71.21. JMP Securities analyst Whitney Stevenson said investors expect Marriott to give up on its pursuit of Starwood.

“They were probably at the limit of what they wanted to pay,” she said. “Marriott stock is up today because the market is assuming they do not overpay and collect the $470-ish million they get from the breakup fee and walk away from this thing.”

If Anbang does buy Starwood, that will be good news for smaller hotel companies, Stevenson said. Starwood and Marriott would have been the largest hotel chain in the world, and she said they could have “crushed” smaller competitors.

SUPER BOX OFFICE: Time Warner climbed after a strong opening weekend for “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” Despite weak reviews from critics and some skepticism from fans, the movie brought in about $424 million worldwide, including $170 million in the U.S. That was one of the best opening weekends of all time and a good sign for Time Warner’s planned series of movies based on DC Comics characters.

Time Warner rose $2.39, or 3.4 percent, to $72.40.

NO TO NOBLE: Noble Energy is slumping after Israel’s Supreme Court struck down a deal that would have given Noble and other companies the right to start pumping natural gas from offshore deposits. The stock shed $2.69, or 8.3 percent, to $29.65.

PANDORA’S BOX: Pandora is skidding after the streaming music company announced a management shakeup. Co-founder Tim Westergren will replace Brian McAndrews as CEO. The stock tumbled $1.25, or 11.5 percent, to $9.68.

MAKING UP: Cosmetics giant Avon Products said it reached a deal with activist investors that headed off a possible proxy fight. Avon named Cathy Ross, a former executive with FedEx Express, to its board through an agreement with Barington Capital. Avon stock rose 33 cents, or 7.6 percent, to $4.61.

CONSUMER STOCKS: Time Warner led consumer stocks, including media companies, higher. Netflix rose $2.58, or 2.6 percent, to $100.94 and retailer Dollar Tree added $2.45, or 3.1 percent, to $80.97. Starwood and Marriott also contributed to the sector’s gains.

ECONOMY: On Friday, while the U.S. markets were closed for the Good Friday holiday, the government said the economy grew 1.4 percent in the fourth quarter, above the previous estimate of 1 percent. Consumer spending and home construction kept the economy growing.

The Commerce Department said Monday that consumer spending continued to grow in February, but for the third straight month, it rose by only a small amount. Still, economists think consumer spending will grow at a faster pace as the year progresses.

CAREFUL CONSUMER: Consumers have saved a lot of money as gas and heating prices have plunged, said Michael Scanlon, managing director and portfolio manager for John Hancock Asset Management. But he said people aren’t sure that prices will stay low, so they haven’t ramped up their spending. That has surprised experts, who thought the savings would get spent quickly.

“The fact that spending is growing in line with wages is showing how much more responsible the U.S. consumer is today,” he said. But Scanlon thinks consumers will start spending more soon.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude fell seven cents to $39.39 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, lost 17 cents to $40.27 a barrel in London.

Wholesale gasoline was little changed at $1.47 a gallon. Heating oil fell 2 cents to $1.18 a gallon. Natural gas rose 4 cents, or 2.3 percent, to $1.85 per 1,000 cubic feet.

METALS: Gold fell $1.50 to $1,220.10 an ounce. Silver lost 1 cent to $15.19 an ounce. Copper rose 2 cents to $2.25 a pound.

OVERSEAS: Asian stocks were mostly lower Monday after Chinese industrial profits rebounded and U.S. economic growth was stronger than expected. The Shanghai Composite Index fell 0.7 percent. Seoul’s Kospi edged down 0.1 percent. Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 gained 0.8 percent. European markets were closed for the Easter holiday.

BONDS, CURRENCIES: Bond prices increased and the yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note dipped to 1.87 percent from 1.91 percent. The euro inched up to $1.1202 from $1.1177 late Thursday. The dollar rose to 113.26 yen from 112.81 yen.

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