Tranquil start to last trading day of stormy quarter


NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are little changed Thursday morning, a tranquil start to the last trading day of what has been a stormy quarter. Energy companies are rising the most as the price of oil edges higher. The gains are adding to a strong March that wiped away steep losses from the start of the year.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average inched up six points to 17,722 as of 10:07 a.m. Eastern time. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index added 0.5 points to 2,064. The Nasdaq composite index rose six points, or 0.1 percent, to 4,875.

FIRST QUARTER: Stocks tumbled in January and early February on concerns that weak growth in several major global economies would pull the U.S. economy into recession. In early February, the Dow and the S&P 500 were down more than 10 percent from the start of the year. But positive economic news in the U.S. and central bank moves around the world to stimulate economic growth cheered investors, and stocks soared in March. The Dow is on track to finish the first three months of the year up 1.7 percent, while the S&P 500 is headed for a 1 percent gain.

JOBS: The federal government said more Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, but the number of applications remains very low, a sign that hiring is solid. About 276,000 people filed for those benefits, up 11,000 from the week before. The government will release March employment data on Friday.

GOLD SHINES: The price of gold rose $7.90, or 0.6 percent, to $1,236.50. Gold is trading at its highest price in more than a year, and it’s surged about 17 percent this quarter. That’s the biggest gain in any quarter since 1986. Demand for gold has risen because of concerns about the health of the global economy, central bank policies, and more recently, because the U.S. dollar has started to weaken after years of gains.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude rose 39 cents, or 1 percent, to $38.71 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, added 49 cents, or 1.2 percent, to $40.54 a barrel in London. Energy stocks also traded higher. Southwestern Energy rose 52 cents, or 6.8 percent, to $8.22 and Devon Energy rose 69 cents, or 2.6 percent, to $26.89.

TICK TOCK: Watchmaker Movado lost $2.91, or 9.6 percent, to $27.43 after its profit and sales forecasts for 2016 fell short of analyst estimates.

OVERSEAS: France’s CAC-40 fell 1 percent and Germany’s DAX declined 0.5 percent. In London the FTSE 100 index was off 0.2 percent. Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 fell 0.7 percent to 16,758.67 and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng retreated 0.1 percent.

BONDS, CURRENCIES: Bond prices rose slightly and the yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note dipped to 1.82 percent from 1.83 percent. The dollar continued to weaken. On Thursday it edged down to 112.25 from 112.47 yen. The euro edged up to $1.1404 from $1.1333.

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AP Markets Writer Marley Jay can be reached at http://twitter.com/MarleyJayAP His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/journalist/marley-jay