U.S. Stocks Turn Higher As The Price Of Crude Oil Steadies

NEW YORK (AP) — The stock market turned higher Wednesday as the price of oil steadied near six-year lows and a report showed that U.S. businesses hired more workers. European markets also climbed after weak inflation figures for the region raised speculation of further help from the European Central Bank.


KEEPING SCORE: All three major U.S. indexes climbed 1 percent. The Standard & Poor's 500 index was up 23 points to 2,025, as of noon Eastern. The S&P 500 is heading for its first gain after five straight losses.

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         The Dow Jones industrial average rose 188 points to 17,567, and the Nasdaq composite climbed 55 points to 4,649.


ECONOMY WATCH: U.S. businesses increased hiring last month in the latest sign that the U.S. economy is on steady footing. The payroll processor ADP reported that companies added 241,000 workers in December, up from 227,000 in November.

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         Later in the day, the Federal Reserve will release details from its December interest-rate meeting. After last month's meeting, the Fed said it will be "patient" in deciding when to raise interest rates.


ONE VIEW: "It's a bit of a bounce," said Jeff Kravetz, regional investment director at U.S. Bank Wealth Management. "Some of it is from the ADP report, but it's also a matter of the market getting oversold over the last few days."

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         Despite turbulent trading over recent weeks, Kravetz expects 2015 to be another solid year for the stock market.

         "We're telling our clients not to get caught up in this short-term volatility. Look at the fundamentals: the job market, corporate balance sheets, economic growth. They're very good."


ABROAD: Major markets in Europe also climbed higher for the first time this week. Germany's DAX gained 0.4 percent and France's CAC-40 rose 0.6 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 advanced 0.9 percent.


PRICES: Consumer prices in Europe fell in December for the first time since 2009. The 0.2 percent drop was mainly the mainly the result of falling oil prices, something that could help consumers immediately. But falling prices increase pressure on the European Central Bank to provide more stimulus for the region's flagging economy. Many analysts expect the bank to announce plans to buy government bonds later this month. After the report on prices came out, the euro slipped to $1.1810 from $1.1890.


CRUDE: The price of oil stabilized after nearing a six-year low. U.S. crude oil rose 79 cents to $48.69 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Crude has fallen by more than half since June as supplies rose. Lower energy costs are a boon to consumers and businesses, but some see the plunge as a worrying sign of weakness in the global economy.


MOVING: J.C. Penney soared $1.14, or 17 percent, to $7.69 after the beleaguered retail store posted solid sales late Tuesday. For the nine-week holiday shopping season, the company reported sales growth of 3.7 percent over the same period in 2013.


BETTER, BUT: Eli Lilly predicted increased revenue and earnings this year as it tries to recover from the loss of patents protecting key drugs. But the forecast fell short of Wall Street's expectations. The company's stock fell $1.04, or 1 percent, to $68.66.


ASIA'S DAY: Earlier, Tokyo's Nikkei 225 ended flat, while Seoul's Kospi edged up 0.1 percent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.8 percent, and the Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.7 percent.

         – by AP Reporter Matthew Craft

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