Stocks wobble after early gain; Apple climbs on better sales

FILE - In this Oct. 2, 2014, file photo, the statue of George Washington on the steps of Federal Hall faces the facade of the New York Stock Exchange. U.S. stocks are moving higher early Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017, after a survey showed U.S. employers hired new workers at a faster pace in January, a sign that the economy could be getting stronger. Technology stocks are climbing after Apple said iPhone sales improved in its last quarter, which sent its stock to its highest price in more than a year. Stocks are building on a late surge from a day earlier.
Image Credit: (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

NEW YORK - Stocks are little changed Wednesday after an early rally ran out of steam. Technology stocks are up after Apple said iPhone sales improved in its last quarter, which sent its stock to its highest price in more than a year. Most other stocks are trading lower and utilities are falling the most.

A survey showed private U.S. employers hired new workers at a faster pace in January, a sign that the economy could be getting stronger.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average gained 15 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 19,878 as of 11:05 a.m. Eastern time. The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 2 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 2,276. The Nasdaq composite added 15 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 5,629. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks picked up 3 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 1,364.

More stocks fell than rose on the New York Stock Exchange. The market has made only small moves in recent days as investors wait for the Federal Reserve to wrap up its latest policy meeting later Wednesday.

JOB GAINS: A survey by payroll services provider ADP said private U.S. employers added far more jobs than expected in January. The gain of 246,000 jobs was the most in a single month since June. The hiring was widespread, with the construction, manufacturing, health care and shipping industries all adding jobs at a solid pace. That was a positive sign for the economy. Investors sold government bonds, which are relatively safe investments that are in greater demand when the economy seems weaker.

The U.S. government will release its own monthly jobs report Friday.

APPLE POLISHED: Apple jumped to its highest price in a year and a half after it said consumers snapped up its new iPhone 7 and 7 Plus over the last three months. That ended the first-ever slump in iPhone sales, and Apple's first-quarter results were stronger than analysts expected. Its stock rose $6.83, or 5.6 per cent, to $128.18. The big gains for Apple, the world's most valuable publicly-traded company, took technology stocks higher.

Chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices also climbed $1.22, or 11.8 per cent, to $11.59. AMD reported a profit when analysts expected a loss, and its sales were greater than expected.

BONDS: U.S. government bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note jumped to 2.50 per cent from 2.44 per cent. Financial stocks rose, as higher interest rates allow banks to charge more money for lending. Lincoln National climbed $1.07, or 1.6 per cent, to $68.58 and JPMorgan Chase rose 92 cents, or 1.1 per cent, to $85.55.

THE PITS: Mailing equipment and software company Pitney Bownes slid $3.02, or 19 per cent, to $12.90 after its quarterly sales fell short of expectations and its profit forecast disappointed Wall Street.

ENERGY: Oil prices continued to trade in a small range. U.S. crude added 44 cents to $53.25 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the benchmark for international oil prices, gained 59 cents, or 1.1 per cent, to $56.17 a barrel in London. U.S. oil has stayed between roughly $52 and $55 a barrel for the last two months.

The S&P 500's energy company index is on track to fall for the fifth day in a row. It's down 3 per cent over that time and has sunk 7 per cent since Dec. 13.

ALUMINUM ACTIVISM: Lightweight aluminum products maker Arconic surged after its largest shareholder said the company needs new leadership. Elliott Management nominated five potential directors to Arconic's board. The company said it stands by CEO Klaus Kleinfeld and that Elliott's moves are not in the best interest of all shareholders.

Arconic makes lightweight engineered products for aerospace and autos, which some investors saw as more promising than Alcoa's mining and smelting business. But since the companies split on Nov. 1, Arconic stock is almost flat and Alcoa has jumped more than 60 per cent. Arconic gained $2.03, or 8.9 per cent, to $24.76.

CURRENCIES: The dollar gained strength after the jobs survey. It rose to 113.62 yen from 112.76 yen. The euro fell to $1.0753 from $1.0803.

OVERSEAS: Stocks in Europe got a boost from the ADP survey and a report that said manufacturing in China grew at its fastest pace in two years in January. Heavy government spending and more lending by banks helped keep the economy steady. Germany's DAX added 1 per cent while the CAC 40 of France rose 0.9 per cent. The FTSE 100 index in Britain picked up 0.1 per cent. Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 0.6 per cent after a skid on Tuesday. The Kospi in South Korea jumped 0.6 per cent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.2 per cent.

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