Stocks ended little changed Wednesday as the market weathered a sharp rise in the price of oil and fears that Fed chief Alan Greenspan's observations that the economy is strong could lead to continued interest rates hikes.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 2.44 points, or 0.02 percent, at 10,834.88. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 0.22 of a point, or 0.02 percent, at 1,210.34. The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 1.78 points, or 0.1 percent, at 2,087.43.
Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve, told Congress that the economy entered 2005 in good shape, but warned that policymakers must continue to guard against inflation. Greenspan was delivering the Fed's twice-a-year economic outlook to lawmakers.
Crude oil futures rose sharply Wednesday as the U.S. Department of Energy reported a rise in crude inventories but a drop in the supply of distillate fuel. Tensions in the Middle East and an OPEC forecast for rising demand also contributed to the price rise. Light sweet crude for March delivery jumped $1.07 to settle at $48.33 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude for April delivery rose 76 cents to $46.15 a barrel on the International Petroleum Exchange.
Among local issues, shares of UTI Worldwide Inc. jumped 4.4 percent to close at $71.62 after the Rancho Dominguez-based company announced the signing of a contract with Wal-Mart Stores East LP, an affiliate of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., awarding UTI's Standard Corp. the management of the shipping and receiving services for a new Wal-Mart complex scheduled to open in April in Baytown, Texas.
Edison International gained 0.6 percent to $32.92 after the Rosemead-based utility holding company's debt rating was upgraded to investment-grade status from junk status by Standard & Poor's. S & P; also upgraded the debt ratings for Southern California Edison, Edison International's regulated utility subsidiary.
On the down side, shares of Guess Inc. dropped 2.3 percent to close at $14.60 after the L.A.-based casual apparel maker released earnings. Guess reported fourth-quarter net earnings of $14.9 million (33 cents per diluted share), compared with $11.8 million (27 cents) for the like period a year earlier. Revenues for the L.A.-based casual apparel maker rose 12.4 percent to $224 million.
Hilton Hotels Corp. dipped 1.7 percent to $21.71 after investors reacted to news that U.S. hotel revenue per available room fell 0.4 percent in the week ended Feb. 12 from the same period a year earlier, according to Smith Travel Research.
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