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Energies Lead Modest US Stock Gains    03/18 16:11

   U.S. stock indexes finished modestly higher Monday, extending the market's 
solid gains from a rally last week.

   (AP) -- U.S. stock indexes finished modestly higher Monday, extending the 
market's solid gains from a rally last week.

   Energy companies notched the biggest gains after the price of U.S. crude oil 
closed above $59 a barrel for the first time since November. Smaller company 
stocks fared better than the rest of the market.

   Financial, consumer goods and technology stocks accounted for much of the 
gains. Goldman Sachs rose 2.1 percent, Advance Auto Parts climbed 4.4 percent 
and Microsoft added 1.4 percent.

   Those gains outweighed losses in communications and health care sector 
companies. Facebook slid 3.3 percent and Boston Scientific dropped 5.6 percent.

   Stocks were riding the momentum from last week, when the S&P 500 resumed its 
torrid start to the year following a brief, five-day stumble. The index is back 
to within 3.5 percent of its record high, set in September, after clawing back 
all of its terrifying drop from December.

   The market's latest gains come as investors wait for a resolution of the 
costly trade war between the U.S. and China. After several weeks of 
negotiations, it's not clear how close the two sides are to an agreement. A 
meeting between President Donald Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping to 
formalize a deal might be pushed back to June, according to some news reports.

   Traders were also looking ahead to the Federal Reserve's next interest rate 
policy update on Wednesday.

   "In many ways, the market is in limbo," said Sam Stovall, chief investment 
strategist at CFRA. "And in the meantime, (investors) are waiting for some sort 
of agreement on the trade talks as well as the Fed."

   The S&P 500 gained 10.46 points, or 0.4 percent, to 2,832.94. The benchmark 
index is now up 13 percent for 2019 so far, which is a bigger gain than it's 
had in four of the last five full years.

   The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 65.23 points, or 0.3 percent, to 

   The Nasdaq composite added 25.95 points, or 0.3 percent, to 7,714.48. The 
Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks picked up 10.39 points, or 0.7 
percent, to 1,563.93.

   Major stock indexes in Europe finished mostly higher. 

   U.S. stocks have had a strong showing this year, with all the major indexes 
showing a gain of at least 11 percent.

   One key to the recent rally has been the belief that the Federal Reserve 
will slow its pace of increases for interest rates. The worry in December was 
that the central bank would raise rates too fast in the face of a slowing 
global economy and choke off growth. The Fed will meet to discuss interest-rate 
policy this week, with an announcement scheduled for Wednesday, but economists 
expect it to announce no change to rates.

   "The expectations are that the Fed won't do anything in the first half of 
the year," Stovall said.

   Some economists say the Fed could release documents Wednesday that would 
suggest one rate increase in 2019, or possibly zero, after the Fed raised rates 
four times in 2018 and three times in 2017.

   Perhaps more important is what the Fed says about its vast trove of bonds. 
The central bank bought trillions of dollars of bonds after the 2008 financial 
crisis to keep interest rates low and support markets, but it's been slowly 
letting some roll off as they mature. Investors want to know how much the Fed 
will ultimately hold onto, and how long it will take to get there.

   Monday's upward swing in oil prices came after OPEC canceled a meeting that 
had been scheduled for next month. The move means that a production cut imposed 
by the oil cartel in January remains in place, at least until the cartel agrees 
to meet again.

   Benchmark U.S. crude oil rose 1 percent to settle at $59.09 a barrel, while 
Brent crude gained 0.6 percent to close at $67.54 a barrel.

   Energy stocks got a boost from the pickup in oil prices. National Oilwell 
Varco jumped 6.2 percent, Halliburton gained 3.2 percent and Marathon Petroleum 
rose 2.7 percent.

   Investors also bid up shares in Worldpay after Fidelity National Information 
Services agreed to buy the payment processor for about $35 billion in stock and 
cash. Including Worldpay's debt, Fidelity National valued the deal at $43 

   Worldpay's U.S.-listed shares jumped 10 percent. Fidelity National, also 
called FIS, slipped 0.7 percent.

   Edwards Lifesciences vaulted 6.2 percent for the biggest gain in the S&P 500 
after it said patients in a trial using an expandable valve had better results 
than those who had standard open-heart surgery.

   Boeing fell further as the investigation continues into two recent deadly 
crashes of its 737 Max 8 plane model. Preliminary information shows clear 
similarities between the two. The stock declined 1.8 percent, following its 
10.3 percent loss last week.

   Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 2.61 percent 
from 2.59 late Friday.

   The dollar fell to 111.41 Japanese yen from 111.48 yen on Friday. The euro 
strengthened to $1.1338 from $1.1320.

   Gold fell 0.1 percent to $1,301.50 an ounce, silver was little changed at 
$15.32 an ounce and copper added 0.1 percent to $2.91 a pound.

   In other energy futures trading, wholesale gasoline climbed 1.4 percent to 
$1.88 a gallon, heating oil added 0.1 percent to $1.97 a gallon and natural gas 
picked up 2 percent to $2.85 per 1,000 cubic feet.


   AP Business Writer Yuri Kageyama contributed from Tokyo. 


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