Stock Closed Higher, Powered by Auto Sales

U.S. stocks closed higher on Wednesday following a strong showing in auto sales and the latest Federal Reserve meeting showed that policy makers expected a faster pace of rate hikes in 2017. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 60.40 points, or 0.30%, to 19,942.16. The S&P 500 was up 12.92 points, or 0.57%, to 2,270.75. The Nasdaq Composite gained 47.92 points, or 0.88%, to 5,477.00.

Automakers bought themselves a holiday present in 2016 to achieve a record seventh straight annual sales gain — at a steep cost. Aggressive dealmaking in December ultimately pushed the year’s total sales to a record 17.55 million cars and light trucks — a feat considered unlikely just six months earlier.

Oil futures finished higher Wednesday, with signs that major oil producers are sticking to their pledge to cut output. February West Texas Intermediate crude rose 93 cents, or 1.8%, to $53.26 a barrel. March Brent added 99 cents, or 1.8%, to $56.46 a barrel.

Macy’s, the department-store operator, announced 68 store closures and issued a profit warning. It said the store closures would eliminate 3,900 jobs, while a restructuring in early 2017 would result in the cutting of 6,200 employees.

Kohl’s Corp. (KSS) lowered its per-share earnings expectations for fiscal 2016. Kohl’s said it expects fiscal 2016 diluted earnings a share to be $2.92 to $2.97, versus a previous guidance of $3.12 to $3.32 a share.

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