US stock market trades mixed as oil tumbles
NEW YORK - U.S. stocks edged higher in afternoon trading, as tumbling oil prices lifted companies likely to benefit from falling energy costs, such as shippers.
KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index was up less than a point to 2,073 as of 11:08 a.m. Eastern time on Friday.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 50 points, or 0.3 percent, to 17,878. The Nasdaq composite rose 20 points, or 0.4 percent, to 4,808.
It's a half-day of trading in the stock market, with the closing bell set to ring at 1 p.m. The market was closed Thursday for the Thanksgiving holiday.
NICE MONTH: Rising corporate profits and a steadily improving U.S. economy have helped push the stock market to record highs this month. The S&P 500 index, a widely used gauge for investment performance, is on track to close November with a 2.7 percent gain, the third-best monthly performance this year. It was a quiet climb, made up of a series of small steps. There wasn't a single day in November that the index rose more than 1 percent.
OIL SLUMP: The main catalyst in markets remains Thursday's decision by the OPEC oil cartel to maintain production at 30 million barrels a day. The move hit oil prices hard as traders expect the global supply of oil to stay high. Crude oil slumped 6 percent to $68.93.
FALLOUT: Around the world, the slide in crude prices pulled oil and gas companies down. In Asia, China's state-owned oil giant CNOOC, the country's biggest crude producer, plunged. In Europe, shares in Royal Dutch Shell, Total and other energy giants fell. In the U.S., Denbury Resources plunged 16 percent and Newfield Exploration lost 11 percent, the two steepest drops by any company in the S&P 500 index.
SIDE BENEFITS: Many companies stand to gain from falling oil prices. For shippers, lower prices mean lower costs. United Parcel Service rose 4 percent, making it the third-biggest gainer in the S&P 500 index.
EUROPE: France's CAC 40 and Germany's DAX both eased 0.2 percent, while Germany's DAX slipped 0.2 percent. In the U.K, the FTSE 100 index of leading British companies was little changed from the previous day.
ONE VIEW: "The template for equity markets today has been clear from the beginning," said Alastair McCaig, market analyst at IG. "Oil and energy manufacturers are down, while those companies that are oil consumers are up."
HOLDING FIRM: In Europe, a report said inflation across the 18-country eurozone slipped to 0.3 percent over the past year. Fears that the eurozone will start to see a widespread drop in prices, what's known as deflation, have heaped pressure on the euro as traders price in a growing likelihood that the European Central Bank will launch a larger bond-buying program to support the region's flagging economy.
ASIA'S DAY: Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index rose 1.2 percent. In China, Hong Kong's Hang Seng closed down 0.1 percent, while the Shanghai Composite Index gained 2 percent.
JAPAN: A raft of data releases gave mixed signs about the state of Asia's second biggest economy but the country's main stock index, the Nikkei, surged, a sign investors are speculating that further stimulus efforts are likely after the upcoming election. Inflation edged lower and unemployment eased slightly. The yen weakened further, with the dollar trading 0.5 percent higher at 118.24 yen.