NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks wavered Thursday and finished barely higher as an interest rate cut by the Bank of England, a move intended to shore up the British economy, wasn’t enough to get investors out of their recent cautious mode.
Technology companies continued to make the biggest gains, as they’ve done over the last few months. Oil prices rose for the second day in a row, something that hadn’t happened for almost three weeks. Bank stocks fell the most, as the interest rate cut suggests they won’t be able to make as much money on lending. While the Bank of England’s moves sent European stocks higher, investors in U.S. stocks moved carefully as they waited for Friday’s jobs report.
Quincy Krosby, market strategist at Prudential Financial, said investors were playing it safe as they waited for the Labor Department’s July employment report. Hiring in June was stronger than expected, but that followed shockingly weak job growth in May.
“The market has been surprised before and wants to make sure that they’re prepared in either direction,” Krosby said. “To get the market to move higher you need an underpinning of stronger economic growth.”
The Dow Jones industrial average slipped 2.95 points to 18,352.05. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index inched up 0.46 points to 2,164.25. The Nasdaq composite rose 6.51 points, or 0.1 percent, to 5,166.25.
The Bank of England cut interest rates to new lows and unveiled a raft of stimulus measures that include resuming a bond-buying program to pump money into the economy and offering cheap loans to banks. The measures seemed to exceed investors’ expectations, and the bank said the measures could be expanded later if it proves necessary.
The Bank of England is trying to counter the shock of Britain’s vote in late June to leave the European Union. Britain’s central bank hadn’t cut interest rates since the financial crisis.
The pound fell to $1.3116 from $1.3317 on Wednesday. Bank shares also lost ground, as lower interest rates reduce the amount of money they can make from lending.
Technology stocks have done better than the broader market in the spring and summer, and on Thursday they were led higher by companies including Facebook and communications chipmaker Broadcom. Facebook rose $1.85, or 1.5 percent, to $124.36, and Broadcom gained $2.88, or 1.8 percent, to $166.99.
Materials companies made some of the biggest gains after strong earnings from Ball Corp. and Westrock. Ball, which makes metal and plastic packaging for food and drink companies, jumped $8.41, or 12 percent, to $78.51 and packaging company WestRock rose $1.77, or 4.2 percent, to $43.72.
Benchmark U.S. crude rose $1.10, or 2.7 percent, to $41.93 a barrel in New York after a 3-percent climb Wednesday. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oil prices, added $1.19, or 2.8 percent, to $44.29 a barrel in London.
The Labor Department said applications for unemployment aid rose to 269,000 last week, a level close to historical lows and a positive sign for the job market. The number of Americans collecting unemployment benefits has fallen more than 5 percent in last year, but the pace of hiring and economic growth slowed in the first half of 2016.
Mobile payments company Square climbed after it reported strong second-quarter results and raised its projections for the year. The stock rose 88 cents, or 8.4 percent, to $11.32.
Travel website operator TripAdvisor reported lower revenue growth and profit margins in the second quarter, disappointing analysts. The company also cited terrorism as among the events that are making it harder to predict how its business will perform in the near future. Its stock lost $5.90, or 8.5 percent, to $63.59.
Theme park operator SeaWorld said its revenue fell in the second quarter as guest numbers from Latin America dropped off amid economic turmoil there and bad weather. Its stock gave up $1.96, or 13.2 percent, to $12.88.
Callaway Golf jumped after sporting goods giant Nike surprised Wall Street by saying it will stop making golf equipment like clubs, golf balls and bags. Nike said it will focus on apparel and shoes instead. Callaway climbed 42 cents, or 4 percent, to $11.
In other energy trading, wholesale gasoline rose 2 cents to $1.37 a gallon. Heating oil added 4 cents to $1.33 a gallon. Natural gas fell 1 cent to $2.83 per 1,000 cubic feet.
The price of gold rose $2.70 to $1,367.40 an ounce. Silver fell 3 cents to $20.44 an ounce. Copper lost 2 cents to $2.17 a pound.
Britain’s FTSE 100 rose 1.6 percent. Germany’s DAX and France’s CAC 40 both rose 0.6 percent. Japan’s Nikkei 225 finished 1.1 percent higher. South Korea’s Kospi added 0.3 percent and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index gained 0.4 percent.
Bond prices rose and the yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 1.50 percent from 1.54 percent. The dollar inched up to 101.17 yen from 101.13 yen and the euro dipped to $1.1127 from $1.1145.