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Stocks end modestly higher as energy gains

The Dow rose about 38 points, with DuPont rising and Verizon falling. The Nasdaq rose about 15 points.

May 25, 2011

In this file photo taken May 12, 2011, specialist Ned Zelles, center, works at his post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Concerns that Europe's debt crisis may be worsening, particularly in Greece, kept stock markets in check Wednesday, May 25, 2011, while soft Japanese economic figures added to the evidence suggesting that the global economic recovery is running out of steam.

Richard Drew / AP / File


By Abby Schultz,

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Stocks ended modestly higher, snapping a three-day losing streak thanks to news that gasoline demand was stabilizing, and as investors shrugged off weak economic news.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 38.45 points, or 0.3 percent, to close at 12,394.66.

Among Dow components, DuPont advanced, while Verizon fell.

The S&P 500 rose 4.19 points, or 0.32 percent, to close at 1,320.47 and the Nasdaq rose 15.22 points, or 0.55 percent, to close at 2,761.38. The CBOE Volatility Index, widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, fell to 17.

Among key S&P 500 stocks, energy and materials gained, while consumer staples fell.

News that gasoline supplies were stabilizing and distillate stocks (heating oil and diesel fuel) fell more than expected, combined with an upbeat forecast on the North American oil services business from Halliburton's chief financial officer helped to lift the market, said Marc Pado, U.S. market strategist at Cantor Fitzgerald.

Halliburton shares gained more than 4 percent, while shares of smaller oilfield services providers contributed to a pop in the Russell 2000, Pado said. The small-cap index was up around 1 percent, while the Oil Service HOLDRS Trust gained more than 2 percent.

Wednesday's move continues a trend showing that money "doesn't want to leave the market," he added. When investors get worried, they move into defensive stocks, like consumer staples and utilities, but if they can find any good reason to buy stocks they shift into leadership sectors, like energy, materials and technology.

"This is classic, a typical pullback phase," Pado said. "When there's good news of any sort, you get a little bounce. That tells me there are willing buyers."

Oil prices rose on Wednesday despite an unexpected 616,000 barrel rise in crude stockpiles as distillate supplies fell 2.04 million barrels to the lowest level since April 2009.

U.S. light, sweet crude gained 1.74 percent to settle at $101.32 a barrel, while in London, Brent crude rose 2.13 percent to settle at $114.93.

In stocks news, Martha Stewart Living soared on news from the media and merchandising company retained Blackstone Advisory Partners to explore strategic alternatives. The company also announced that Martha Steward is expected to rejoin the Martha Stewart Living board in the third quarter.

American International Group fell after the U.S. Treasury sold 200 million shares at $29 a share, slightly more than the Treasury needs to recoup its investment. The total $8.7 billion sale included 100 million shares sold by AIG.

Retail stocks slipped after some disappointing earnings. Polo Ralph Lauren sank to the bottom of the S&P 500 after reporting disappointing fiscal fourth-quarter profits as a result of the earthquake in Japan. And American Eagle Outfitters skidded despite doubling its first-quarter earnings, as sales and margins dropped.

Costco fell after reporting a boost in gasoline sales in the last quarter hurt its profit margins, despite posting a rise in profits.