Stocks Inch Higher at Midday

NEW YORK (AP) -- U.S. stocks are slightly higher Thursday as gains for technology companies and banks help the market recover some of its recent losses. Amazon said it's buying an online pharmacy and launching its own delivery van business, and drugstores and medication distributors as well as delivery companies are sinking. U.S. crude oil is at its highest price since late 2014. A day ago, stocks closed at their lowest level in about a month.

KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 index added 8 points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,708 as of 1:45 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 46 points, or 0.2 percent, to 24,164. The Nasdaq composite gained 31 points, or 0.4 percent, to 7,476. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks picked up 1 point, or 0.1 percent, to 1,641.

This week investors again find themselves trying to discern whether the U.S. and China are headed for a full-blown trade war or if they will find common ground in their dispute over trade and intellectual property. Reports and statements from U.S. officials have often been contradictory, leading the market to lurch between gains and losses, sometimes by the hour. On Wednesday the S&P closed Wednesday at its lowest level since May 29.

The U.S. is set to impose a 25 percent tariff on billions of dollars of Chinese products starting July 6. In response, China will raise import duties on $34 billion worth of American goods.

AMAZON STRENGTH: Amazon shook up multiple industries Thursday after it said it's buying online pharmacy PillPack, which offers pre-sorted dose packaging and home delivery. Investors expected Amazon to use its muscle to reduce costs and drug prices, and that led to sharp losses for drugstores, pharmacy benefits managers and companies that distribute medications.

Amazon rose 2.1 percent to $1,696 while Walgreens fell 9.4 percent to $60.05, and CVS, a drugstore operator and pharmacy benefits manager, skidded 6.5 percent to $65.52. Medication distributor Cardinal Health shed 5.4 percent to $50.05.

Amazon also announced a new program under which contractors around the country can launch businesses that deliver Amazon packages, meaning Amazon will have new ways to deliver products without relying on companies like UPS and FedEx. UPS lost 2.7 percent to $105.49 and FedEx declined 1.8 percent to $225.52.

STRATEGY SHIFTS: Madison Square Garden Co. said it will consider spinning off its sports division, which owns the NBA's New York Knicks and the NHL's Rangers, into a separate publicly traded company. The stock jumped 11.4 percent to $296.48.

Mexican food chain Chipotle said it will restructure its business, closing some restaurants that are struggling and making changes to its menu. It expects up to $135 million in total costs. Analysts and investors took the news as a sign it's going to take more time before Chipotle's business improves substantially. The shares lost 7.8 percent to $421.77.

TECH LEADING: Consulting company Accenture rose 4.8 percent to $162.79 after a strong first quarter. Elsewhere, chipmaker Nvidia added 1.2 percent to $238.55 and payment processor Mastercard added 1.5 percent to $196.07.

Bermuda-based chipmaker Marvell Technology climbed 7.5 percent to $21.61 after it said Chinese regulators approved its $6 billion purchase of competitor Cavium. Cavium jumped 9.3 percent to $86.88.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude continued to surge and gained 1.1 percent to $73.59 a barrel in New York. It's at its highest price since November 2014. Brent crude, used to price international oils, lost 0.1 percent to $77.41 a barrel in London.

Oil prices have rallied over the last week. First, investors concluded that OPEC countries will not increase oil production by as much as they feared. Then the U.S. started pressuring countries to stop importing oil from Iran, the world's sixth-largest producer of oil. The Trump administration is threatening other countries, including close allies such as South Korea, with sanctions if they don't cut off Iranian imports by early November, essentially erecting a global blockade.

BIG SALE: BJ's Wholesale Club jumped after the company went public again. The stock started trading at $17 a share, at the high end of the company's projections, and then advanced 27.6 percent to $21.70. BJ's was taken private in 2011.

ECONOMIC GROWTH: The Commerce Department said the U.S. economy grew just 2 percent from January to March, slower than it previously estimated, as consumer spending and business inventories were weaker. But experts think the current quarter, which ends Saturday, is going to be much stronger thanks to an increase in spending by consumers.

BONDS: Bond prices inched lower. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.84 percent from 2.83 percent.

CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 110.40 yen from 110.20 yen. The euro rose to $1.1578 from $1.1557.

METALS: Gold lost 0.4 percent to $1,251 an ounce. Silver fell 1.2 percent to $15.96 an ounce. Copper shed 1 percent to $2.95 a pound.

OVERSEAS: Germany's DAX was down 1.4 percent France's CAC 40 shed 1 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 lost 0.1 percent.

Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index remained almost flat and South Korea's Kospi lost 1.2 percent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.5 percent.

(BE)