Wall Street Drifts To A Mixed Close, Holding Near Record Levels

NEW YORK (AP) -- Stocks drifted to a mixed close on Wall Street as a lull carried through financial markets worldwide. The S&P 500 edged down 0.2% Wednesday, a day after setting an all-time high. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.1%, and the Nasdaq composite fell 0.5%. The bond market was also quiet, with Treasury yields edging a bit higher. Stock markets around the world likewise moved only modestly. Oil prices rose, adding to their gains for the year so far. That helped the stocks of energy producers. Dollar Tree tumbled after reporting weaker results than analysts expected.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP's earlier story follows below.

NEW YORK (AP) -- U.S. stocks are drifting around their records Wednesday, as a lull carries through financial markets worldwide.

The S&P 500 was mostly unchanged in afternoon trading, a day after setting an all-time high. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 108 points, or 0.3%, as of 2:18 p.m. Eastern time, and the Nasdaq composite was 0.3% lower.

The bond market was also quiet, with Treasury yields edging higher, while stock markets abroad were mixed after making modest moves.

The biggest action may have been in the oil market, where a barrel of benchmark U.S. crude climbed 2.6% to $79.56. Brent crude, the international standard, rose 2.5% to $83.94 per barrel.

Oil prices have been on a general upswing so far this year, which has helped keep inflation a bit higher than economists expected. That higher inflation has in turn dashed Wall Street's hopes that the Federal Reserve could start offering relief at its meeting next week by cutting interest rates.

But the expectation is still for the Fed to begin cutting in June because the longer-term trend for inflation seems to remain downward. The Fed's main interest rate is at its highest level since 2001, and reductions would release pressure on the economy and financial system. Stocks have already rallied in part on expectations for such cuts.

The breathtaking run since late October, though, has also raised criticism that it was too strong and too quick. The U.S. stock market is looking more expensive than it has in 99% of its history by a measure that looks at prices versus long-term earnings, according to Jeremy Grantham, co-founder of GMO.

The famed investor, who has a reputation for being cautious but also correctly predicted the popping of prior bubbles, says the long-run prospects for the broad U.S. market "look as poor as almost any other time in history."

"The simple rule is you can't get blood out of a stone," he wrote in a recent report. "If you double the price of an asset, you halve its future return."

On Wall Street, where the S&P 500 has jumped nearly 45% since hitting a bottom in 2022, Dollar Tree tumbled 14.4% after reporting weaker results for the latest quarter than analysts expected.

Traffic increased at its stores, but it said customers bought less at each purchase than they did a year ago. The company also said it will close about 600 of its Family Dollar stores in the six months through early August.

On the winning side of Wall Street was Williams-Sonoma, which jumped 18.6%. The company, which also runs Pottery Barn and West Elm stores, increased its dividend 26% and announced a new authorization to buy back up to $1 billion of its stock. It also delivered a stronger profit for its latest quarter than analysts expected, despite the drag of a slower housing market.

Stocks of energy producers were also strong, benefiting from the rise in oil prices. Those in the S&P 500 rose 2% for the biggest gain by far among the 11 sectors that make up the index. Valero Energy climbed 6%, and Marathon Petroleum rose 4.3%. A 1.8% rise for Exxon Mobil was one of the strongest forces pushing the S&P 500 upward.

The majority of stocks in the S&P 500 were rising, but the index was weighed down by losses from some of its most influential members. Nvidia sank 1.9% and was the strongest single force pulling the index lower.

In the bond market, the yield on the 10-year Treasury ticked up to 4.17% from 4.15% late Tuesday. It helps set rates for mortgages and loans for all kinds of companies and other borrowers.

The two-year Treasury yield also edged higher. It more closely follows expectations for the Fed, and it rose to 4.62% from 4.58% late Tuesday and from 4.20% at the start of February. It had earlier dropped on strong expectations for coming cuts to interest rates by the Fed.

In stock markets abroad, indexes were modestly higher in Europe, with France's CAC 40 up 0.6%. In Asia, stock indexes slipped 0.4% in Shanghai and rose 0.4% in Seoul amid mixed trading.


AP Business Writer Yuri Kageyama contributed.