Stocks Mixed on Oil Price Surge, Chip Strength

Stocks ended trading today with mixed results as a surge by the microchip sector boosted tech shares and the Dow slumped on persistently high oil prices and some slack earnings news.

The Dow lost 10.69, or 0.11 percent, to close at 9,886.93, while the Nasdaq gained 10.07, a half a percentage point, to 1,932.97. The S&P 500 also finished narrowly higher, climbing a fraction of a point to finish at 1,103.66.

One factor weighing on the Dow was yet another surge in oil prices, which rebounded from a two-day sell-off to move above the US$55 mark once again in early trading. Crude futures trading in New York ended at $54.92 per barrel, a gain of $1.63. Heating oil, gasoline and natural gas futures were all higher as well.

Heating Oil

The latest oil price spike came after the U.S. Energy Department reported a sharp drop in heating oil stores last week that left supplies nearly 10 percent below levels for the same week last year.

Earnings were also a factor. Honeywell lost 5 percent on the day after its lackluster third-quarter results led to a broker downgrade, and JP Morgan also missed targets, dragging the Dow index lower.

The tech heavy Nasdaq traded higher largely on the strength of chip stocks, which have been extremely volatile in recent weeks starting with a large-scale sell-off before the end of the third quarter. Intel was up more than 3 percent for the session, leading most chip stocks in moving higher.

Earnings Reports

Also providing a tech boost was Lucent Technologies, which posted better-than-expected quarterly results and its first full year of profit and sales growth since the dot-com bubble burst in 2000.

But the earnings pendulum swung both ways in the tech sector. Shares of mobile phone maker Motorola were hammered, dropping more than 6 percent after its sales outlook disappointed investors.

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