US Stocks Jump as Britons Go to Polls

NEW YORK (AP) -- U.S. stocks made their biggest gain in a month Thursday as investors grew more optimistic that Britons will vote to stay in the European Union. Investors bought stocks and sold bonds, sending bond yields and banks higher.

On the last trading day before results from the British referendum, stocks continued to rise as investors grew more confident Britain won't leave the union. Bank stocks did the best, while materials companies also rose. The price of oil topped $50 a barrel. Utility companies, which are generally seen as a safe investment, lagged the market as investors took a few more risks.

U.S. stocks have advanced about 2 percent this week. Before that, the market slumped as investors worried that a "leave" vote would disrupt the economies of Britain and Europe. Throughout this year, the market has bobbed up and down as investors traded on political and central bank news, like the British referendum and comments from the Federal Reserve.

J.J. Kinahan, chief strategist at TD Ameritrade, said that's because the global economy is sluggish. Corporate profits and revenues have also been uninspiring.

"What it really shows is just a lack of growth," he said. "That makes it very difficult to commit capital and I think that's a pattern you're going to continue to see."

The Dow Jones industrial average jumped 230.24 points, or 1.3 percent, to 18,011.07. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 27.87 points, also 1.3 percent, to 2,113.32. The Nasdaq composite climbed 76.72 points, or 1.6 percent, to 4,910.04.

European stock indexes also advanced. France's CAC 40 rose 2 percent and Germany's DAX gained 1.8 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 rose 1.2 percent.

Bond prices declined, sending the yield on the 10-year Treasury note up to 1.75 percent from 1.69 percent a day earlier.

Higher bond yields mean higher interest rates, which allow banks to make money on lending. Citigroup rose $1.78, or 4.2 percent, to $44.46 and Bank of America gained 43 cents, or 3.2 percent, to $14.04.

After the polls closed in the U.K. and reports emerged that the vote appeared to favor those wanting to remain in the EU, the British pound surged more than 1 percent to its highest level of 2016. It was up to $1.50 from $1.48, where it stood while the voting was still going on.

The dollar rose to 105.78 yen from 104.47 yen. The euro rose to $1.1351 from $1.1307.

U.S. crude rose 98 cents, or 2 percent, to $50.11 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the benchmark for international oil prices, rose $1.03, or 2.1 percent, to $50.91 a barrel in London. Among energy stocks, Chevron picked up $2.15, or 2.1 percent, to $104.44 and ConocoPhillips rose $1.64, or 3.7 percent, to $45.63.

Fertilizer maker Mosaic climbed $1.26, or 4.7 percent, to $28 on reports that the large potash companies of Russia and Belarus might start working together, something that haven't done since 2013. That might bolster prices of the fertilizer, which have slumped in recent years. Other mining and chemicals companies also surged. Paint and coatings maker PPG Industries rose $3.41, or 3.2 percent, to $111.22 and gold and copper miner Freeport-McMoRan added 27 cents, or 2.3 percent, to $11.77.

Software company Twilio surged after its initial public offering raised more money than analysts expected. The company makes software that helps companies communicate with their customers and employees through methods like text messages and phone notifications. Its IPO priced at $150 million, and the stock soared $13.79, or 91.9 percent, to $28.79.

Bookseller Barnes & Noble reported stronger-than-expected sales and its stock jumped 82 cents, or 7.9 percent, to $11.26.

Macy's, the largest U.S. department store, said CEO Terry Lundgren will step down early next year after about 13 years in charge. He will remain chairman of the company, and president Jeff Gennette will become CEO. Macy's rose 57 cents, or 1.7 percent, to $33.38.

Software maker Red Hat fell $1.36, or 1.7 percent, to $78.39 after it posted mixed quarterly results and a disappointing outlook. The company also said it will buy software maker 3scale, but didn't disclose terms.

The Labor Department said applications for unemployment benefits fell last week, more evidence employers are keeping workers and may be hiring at a faster pace. About 2.1 million Americans are receiving those benefits, or 4.6 percent fewer than a year ago.

The price of gold fell $6.90 to $1,263.10 an ounce, and it's down almost 3 percent over the last five days. Silver rose 4 cents to $17.35 an ounce. Copper added 3 cents to $2.16 a pound.

In other energy trading, wholesale gasoline rose 2 cents to $1.60 a gallon. Heating oil gained 2 cents to $1.52 a gallon. Natural gas added 2 cents to $2.70 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In Asia, Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 gained 1.1 percent, Hong Kong's Hang Seng inched up 0.4 percent and South Korea's Kospi fell 0.3 percent.

(KA)