NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks are mostly higher Thursday afternoon as investors take refuge in safe-play stocks like phone companies after a surprisingly weak report on the job market. Energy stocks are getting a lift after the price of oil turned higher. Retailers got more bad news as department store Kohl’s reported disappointing first-quarter results.
KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average rose 49 points, or 0.3 percent, to 17,759 as of 3:04 p.m. Eastern time. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index added 4 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,068. The Nasdaq composite index dipped 9 points, or 0.2 percent, to 4,752.
PLAYING IT SAFE: The biggest gains went to phone companies, chemicals makers and consumer stocks. AT&T gained 45 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $39.63. Monsanto jumped 8 percent on reports the agribusiness giant might be acquired. Consumer companies rose, with Kraft Heinz up $1.27, or 1.5 percent, to $86.47 and Coca-Cola added 37 cents to $45.83.
OUT OF WORK: The Labor Department said applications for unemployment benefits rose to the highest level since February 2015. That comes after a disappointing jobs report for April. Applications rose by 20,000 to 294,000. Despite the increase, they have remained below 300,000 for more than a year.
THE QUOTE: “The market is following oil,” said John Cannally, chief economic strategist for LPL Financial. Cannally thinks investors don’t have a lot of confidence in the global economy right now, and will be watching subsequent reports out of China to see if there are more signs that the world’s second-largest economy is continuing to slow down.
DEAL TALK: Bloomberg News reported that German chemical and pharmaceutical company Bayer might make an offer for U.S.-based Monsanto. That follows a wave of consolidation in the chemicals industry: DuPont and Dow Chemical agreed to combine last year, and ChemChina agreed to buy Syngenta of Switzerland in March. Monsanto stock climbed $7.06, or 7.8 percent, to $97.40.
Data security company Infoblox surged $3.43, or 22.4 percent, to $18.74 after Bloomberg reported that a private equity firm offered to buy it.
OIL: Benchmark U.S. oil, which is at its highest price since early November, gained 47 cents, or 1 percent, to $46.70 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the benchmark for international oil prices, rose 48 cents, or 1 percent, to $48.08 a barrel in London.
The International Energy Agency said it thinks the global oil surplus will shrink by the year’s end, bringing supply and demand much closer to balance. The price of oil dropped from around $100 a barrel in mid-2014 to as low as $26 a barrel in February and has rallied since then.
MORE RETAIL WOES: Department store Kohl’s said its sales dropped and its income was weighed down by high costs. The company’s results suffered as it discounted some items to clear out inventory. The stock fell $3.51, or 9.1 percent, to $35.19.
Retailers have been struggling for months. Macy’s slashed its profit forecast Wednesday following its quarterly report, and Gap posted worse-than-expected April sales on Monday.
A BITE OUT OF APPLE: Apple fell to its lowest price in almost two years. Its stock slid $1.92, or 2.1 percent, to $90.59.
EAT UP: Burger chain Jack in the Box reported strong results, including better sales at its Qdoba Mexican restaurants. Its stock jumped $9.97, or 15.3 percent, to $75.11.
CARDED: Payment card company CPI Card Group reported disappointing results as shipments of chip-enabled cards were lower than expected. The company said the market is struggling in the U.S. and cut its guidance because credit card companies aren’t buying and issuing as many of the cards as expected.
Its stock skidded $3.66, or 47.8 percent, to $4. The company’s IPO priced at $10 per share in October.
OTHER ENERGY TRADING: Wholesale gasoline jumped 10 cents, or 6.4 percent, to $1.58 a gallon. Heating oil was little changed at $1.39 a gallon. Natural gas lost 2 cents to $2.16 per 1,000 cubic feet.
METALS: The price of gold dipped $4.30 to $1,271.20 an ounce. Silver lost 22 cents, or 1.2 percent, to $17.10 an ounce. Copper fell 3 cents, or 1.4 percent, to $2.07 a pound.
OVERSEAS: Germany’s DAX fell 1.1 percent and the FTSE 100 in Britain was down 0.4 percent. France’s CAC 40 lost 0.2 percent. Japan’s Nikkei 225 stock index rose 0.4 percent and the Hang Seng index of Hong Kong dropped 0.7 percent. South Korea’s Kospi lost 0.1 percent.
BONDS, CURRENCIES: Bond prices fell and the yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note rose to 1.76 percent from 1.73 percent. The dollar edged up to 109.12 yen from 108.49 yen. The euro slipped to $1.1376 from $1.1425.