Stocks ended higher Tuesday as crude futures continued retreating from record levels, helped along by comments from Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, who said he expected the high prices would curb demand while increasing production and exploration.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 37.32 points, or 0.4 percent, to close at 10,458.46. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 5.27 points, or 0.5 percent, to end at 1,181.39. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 8.25 points, or 0.4 percent, to finish at 1,999.32.
Speaking before a group of U.S. petrochemical producers, Greenspan said more refining capacity was needed around the world, but that energy demand was already starting to soften, a trend that could help bring prices down. Crude oil futures dropped sharply after his remarks, with a barrel of light crude settling 97 cents lower at $56.04 on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Among local companies, shares of Napster Inc. gained 9.2 percent to close at $6.74 after the L.A.-based online music distributor raised its fourth-quarter revenue guidance due to a jump in subscriber growth and stronger-than-expected sales of music downloads. The company said it now expects revenue of between $16.5 million and $17.5 million for the fourth quarter, up from a prior estimate of about $15 million.
And Reliance Steel & Aluminum Co. rose 7.5 percent to $43.28 after the L.A.-based metal processing services supplier also raised first-quarter profit guidance on Tuesday, citing increased volume and pricing levels throughout the quarter. The company now expects earnings of $1.30 to $1.40 per share in the first quarter ended March 31, above its previous projection of $1.05 to $1.15 per share. The current analysts' earnings estimates for the quarter range from $1.10 to $1.15 per diluted share.
On the down side, Unocal Corp. dropped 2.3 percent to $58.24 after the El Segundo-based company's stock was downgraded to "peerperform" from "outperform" by analyst Frederick P. Leuffer Jr. at Bear Stearns & Co. The decline came one day after ChevronTexaco announced a $16.8 billion deal to acquire the local oil and gas producer.
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