Wall St. inches up with energy gain, Wal-Mart

August 18, 2016 7:32 AM EDT

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S., August 17, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid - RTX2LIW1


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By Caroline Valetkevitch

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. stocks ended up slightly on Thursday as Brent oil's rise above $50 a barrel boosted energy shares and an upbeat outlook lifted Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT) to a 14-month high.

Wal-Mart rose 1.9 percent to end at $74.30 after the retailer reported a better-than-expected quarterly profit and raised its fiscal-year outlook. The upbeat forecast followed disappointing outlooks from Target (NYSE: TGT) and Lowe's Companies (NYSE: LOW) the previous day.

The energy index <.SPNY> jumped 1.8 percent after Brent crude topped $50 for the first time in six weeks as major producers prepared to discuss a possible output freeze.

Late-session gains pushed the indexes out of flat territory where they had traded for much of the session, with the S&P 500 index up just 0.1 percent for the week so far.

"With commodities rebounding and the economy remaining surprisingly resilient, with just a little bit more Fed-speak about rising interest rates, that could create a pause. On the other hand, it's been a good year, especially for value investors," said Bryant Evans, investment adviser and portfolio manager at Cozad Asset Management, in Champaign, Illinois.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> gained 23.76 points, or 0.13 percent, to 18,597.7, the S&P 500 <.SPX> added 4.8 points, or 0.22 percent, to 2,187.02 and the Nasdaq Composite <.IXIC> rose 11.49 points, or 0.22 percent, to 5,240.15.

The benchmark S&P index is up 7 percent since Dec. 31. Its recent run to record highs has been partly supported by expectations the Fed will continue to keep rates low, as well as some upbeat earnings and economic news.

Data on Thursday showed the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits fell more than expected last week.

Investors expect more insight on the rate outlook at an annual meeting of central bankers from around the world in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, next week.

Among the day's decliners, the telecommunications index <.SPLRCL> fell 0.8 percent, leading sector losses.

Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO) shares fell 0.8 percent to $30.48 after the network equipment provider said it would cut 5,500 jobs and gave a disappointing forecast.

NetApp (NASDAQ: NTAP) jumped 17.4 percent to $33.88 after its quarterly results beat expectations.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 2.39-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 2.21-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 19 new 52-week highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 93 new highs and 27 new lows.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 2.39-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 2.21-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 19 new 52-week highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 93 new highs and 27 new lows.

About 5.9 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, compared with the 6.4 billion daily average for the past 20 trading days, according to Thomson Reuters data.

(Additional reporting by Tanya Agrawal in Bengaluru; Editing by Dan Grebler)



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