U.S. Stock Market Turns Higher In Afternoon Trading

NEW YORK (AP) — Oil and gas companies fueled a rise in U.S. stocks Friday, setting up the market for its first gain in more than a week.


KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 14 points, or 0.7 percent, to 2,006, as of 1:20 p.m. Energy companies led all 10 of the index's industries to gains, surging more than 2 percent.

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The Dow Jones industrial average picked up 73 points, or 0.4 percent, to 17,394, while the Nasdaq composite added 35 points, or 0.8 percent, to 4,605.

         Still, the market has been weighed down by worries about global growth. Some investors and analysts worry that a seven-month slump in oil prices reflects weaker demand for energy around the world. The S&P 500, a widely used benchmark for U.S. investment funds, is on course for its third straight weekly loss.

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VIEW: "There has been a lot of conflicting information to digest recently," said Anastasia Amoroso, a global market strategist at J.P. Morgan Asset Management. The big question has been whether the recent slump in oil prices will lead to other problems, such as deflation, a downward spiral in prices that could put companies out of business.


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OIL: The long drop in crude prices paused Friday. Benchmark U.S. oil rose $1.40, or 3 percent, to $47.71 a barrel. The price turned higher after the International Energy Agency cut its estimate of oil production from countries outside OPEC. Oil's slide has cut its price by more than half since last June.


GOLDMAN: A fall in trading revenue pulled down Goldman Sachs's quarterly earnings 10 percent. The investment bank's fixed income, currency and commodities division slumped 29 percent. Goldman's stock slipped 99 cents, or 0.6 percent, to $177.54.


ECONOMY: U.S. manufacturers churned out more furniture, computers and clothing in December. The Federal Reserve said factory production increased slightly last month, a fourth straight monthly gain. In a separate report, a gauge of consumer sentiment from the University of Michigan jumped to its highest level in 11 years.


MEDIOCRE START: JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and other big banks have reported weaker profits this week, getting the fourth-quarter earnings season off to a slow start. Analysts predict that big corporations will post earnings growth of 4 percent, according to S&P Capital IQ. Sales are expected to rise just 2.1 percent, largely the result of falling revenue for oil companies.


EUROPE: Most major markets in Europe closed with solid gains. Germany's DAX and France's CAC 40 climbed 1.3 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 rose 0.8 percent.


SWISS SHOCK: The Swiss National Bank, or SNB, said Thursday that it decided to ditch an increasingly expensive policy to cap the rise of the Swiss franc. After the announcement, the Swiss franc spiked against both the euro and the dollar. The SNB had prevented the euro from trading below 1.20 Swiss francs. On Friday, the franc was stable, but Switzerland's stock market sank again, losing 6 percent.


ANALYST'S TAKE: "At least for the short term the Swiss bank action has opened up a new front of financial markets risk," said Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets.


ASIA'S DAY: Major markets in Asia ended with losses. Both Japan's Nikkei 225 and South Korea's Kospi fell 1.4 percent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index closed with a loss of 1 percent.

         – by AP Reporter Matthew Craft


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