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Energy Companies Lead US Stock Indexes Slightly Higher

Energy Companies Lead US Stock Indexes Slightly Higher

U.S. stock indexes edged higher, riding the momentum from a solid rally last week and more in Monday’s Stock Market Update.

Energy stocks led the gainers as crude oil prices rose. Financial and consumer goods stocks also helped lift the market. Those gains outweighed losses in communications and health care sector companies.

Stocks are coming off a strong week, when the S&P 500 resumed its torrid start to the year following a brief, five-day stumble. The index is back to within 3.7 percent of its record high, set in September, after clawing back all of its terrifying drop from December.

One key to the recent rally has been the belief that the Federal Reserve will slow its pace of increases for interest rates. The worry in December was that the central bank would raise rates too fast in the face of a slowing global economy and choke off growth. The Fed will meet to discuss interest-rate policy this week, with an announcement scheduled for Wednesday, but economists expect it to announce no change to rates.

Politicians in London, meanwhile, continued to haggle about the United Kingdom’s pending departure from the European Union, which could have harmful effects for global trade. The Bank of England will announce its decision on interest rates later this week as well.

THE QUOTE: “In many ways, the market is in limbo,” said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA. “And in the meantime, (investors) are waiting for some sort of agreement on the trade talks as well as the Fed.”

KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 was up 0.2 percent as of 3:41 p.m. Eastern time. It’s up 12.8 percent for 2019 so far, which is a bigger gain than it’s had in four of the last five full years.

The Nasdaq composite edged up 0.2 percent and the Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks added 0.4 percent.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was essentially flat, up 11 points, or 0.1 percent, at 25,869.

Major stock indexes in Europe finished mostly higher.

SPURTING HIGHER: Benchmark U.S. crude oil rose 1 percent to $59.09 a barrel, the first time it ended above $59 a barrel since November. Other energy futures also finished higher, which helped lift shares across the energy sector.

National Oilwell Varco jumped 6.1 percent, Halliburton gained 3.3 percent and Marathon Petroleum rose 2.2 percent.

PAY ME NOW: As more transactions move online, the payment processing industry continues to consolidate.

Fidelity National Information Services said Monday it will buy Worldpay for about $35 billion in stock and cash. Including Worldpay’s debt, Fidelity National Information Services valued the dal at $43 billion.

Worldpay’s U.S.-listed shares jumped 9.8 percent. Fidelity National Information Services, also called FIS, slipped 0.8 percent.

HEALTHY GAINS: Edwards Lifesciences vaulted 6.5 percent for the biggest gain in the S&P 500 after it said patients in a trial using an expandable valve had better results than those who had standard open-heart surgery.

STILL GROUNDED: Boeing fell further as the investigation continues into two recent deadly crashes of its 737 Max 8 plane model. Preliminary information shows clear similarities between the two.

Boeing declined 1.9 percent, following its 10.3 percent loss last week.

FED WATCH: The Fed begins a two-day meeting on rates Tuesday, and most investors are expecting very little to come out of it.

Stocks plunged late last year as investors worried about slowing economic growth around the world and feared that future rate increases by the Fed would only worsen it.

Investors were relieved when the central bank pledged early this year to take a patient approach. Some economists say the Fed could release documents Wednesday that would suggest one rate increase in 2019, or possibly zero, after the Fed raised rates four times in 2018 and three times in 2017.

Perhaps more important is what the Fed says about its vast trove of Treasurys. The central bank bought trillions of dollars of Treasurys after the 2008 financial crisis to keep interest rates low and support markets, but it’s been slowly letting some roll off as they mature. Investors want to know how much in Treasurys the Fed will ultimately hold onto, and how long it will take to get there.

SEARCHING FOR SINO SIGNS: Investors are still waiting for more progress in the trade dispute between the world’s two largest economies.

China’s congress on Friday endorsed an investment law that aims to address complaints, particularly from the U.S., that China’s system is rigged against foreign companies. The U.S. claims China forces companies to share technology in order to do business in the country.

Chinese indexes rose Monday, with stocks in Shanghai up 2.5 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng rose 1.4 percent.

In a sign of how fluid the U.S.-China trade talks remain, however, news reports said a meeting between President Donald Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping to formalize a deal might be pushed back to June.

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