Stocks turn slightly higher, helped by health care companies
NEW YORK (AP) -- U.S. stocks were moving slightly higher in afternoon trading Tuesday, as health-care companies rallied on the results of UnitedHealth Group, outweighing declines in energy companies as the price of crude oil fell.
Tiffany jumped after it reported better quarterly results than analysts expected.
KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average rose 40 points, or 0.2 percent, to 19,139 as of 1:55 p.m. Eastern. The Standard & Poor's 500 index increased 7 points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,209. The Nasdaq composite added 33 points, or 0.6 percent, to 5,401, slightly above its most recent record high close set last Friday.
HEALTHY FEELING: UnitedHealth, the largest U.S. health insurer, backed its forecast for this year and said it expects its earnings to grow in 2017. That's because of stable medical costs, less exposure to Affordable Care Act health care exchanges, and growth for Optum, a business that manages pharmacy benefits, runs clinics and doctors' offices and provides technology services. The Dow component climbed $5.09, or 3.3 percent, to $157.22.
Other health care stocks also rallied, with the health care component of the S&P 500 up more than 1.5 percent.
Alexion Pharmaceuticals rose $5.97, or 5 percent, to $125.35, AbbVie rose $2.30, or 3.9 percent, to $61.73. Other insurance companies also posted gains, with Aetna rising $3.56, or 2.8 percent, to $131.97. Cigna, Humana and Anthem were all up more than 1 percent as well.
OIL: OPEC nations meet Wednesday to try to finalize a deal that would reduce oil production, but the possibility of a deal seems to be falling apart. Saudi Arabia's representatives have sounded skeptical while Iran is hesitant to limit its own output as it ramps up production following years of international sanctions.
Benchmark U.S. crude fell $1.66, or 3.6 percent, to $45.41 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, tumbled $1.72, or 3.5 percent, to $47.49 a barrel in London.
Among energy stocks, oil giants Exxon Mobil and Chevron fell roughly 1 percent each.
PUT A RING ON IT: Luxury jeweler Tiffany traded higher after the company reported stronger sales in Asia, which countered weaker results from the U.S. and Europe. Its stock gained $2.74, or 3.5 percent, to $80.85.
DRIVE OFF THE LOT: Thor Industries, which makes Airstream and other recreational vehicles, surged after it reported a much stronger profit and better sales than analysts expected. Its stock added $12.06, or 13 percent, to $102.50.
CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 112.42 yen from 112.26 yen. The euro rose to $1.0648 compared with $1.0597 yesterday.
BONDS: Bond prices were mostly unchanged with the yield on the 10-year Treasury note down to 2.30 percent from 2.31 percent.
OVERSEAS: London's FTSE 100 index shed 1 percent while France's CAC 40 closed mostly unchanged and Germany's DAX rose 0.4 percent.