Stocks ended mixed on Wednesday as substantially lower oil prices offset a government report that offered new evidence of rising inflation, stoking investor worry about potentially more aggressive interest-rate hikes ahead.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished down 14.49, or 0.1 percent, to close at 10,456.02. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index edged up 0.82, or 0.1 percent, to finish the day at 1,172.53. The Nasdaq Composite Index added 0.88, or 0.04 percent, to settle 1,990.22.
Oil plunged $2.22 to $53.81 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, as a weekly government report showed a larger-than-expected build in crude supplies.
A jump in energy costs pushed U.S. consumer prices up 0.4 percent in February, a fresh sign to many on Wall Street that inflation is picking up. The Labor Department said the core consumer price index, which strips out volatile food and energy costs, rose 0.3 percent. It was the biggest rise since September and broke a string of four straight gains of 0.2 percent.
Among local companies, shares of Iris International Inc. gained 4.3 percent to close at $11.06 after the Chatsworth-based in vitro diagnostic equipment maker's stock was rated "strong buy" in new coverage by Southwest Securities. The 12-month price target was set at $16 per share.
And California Pizza Kitchen Inc. rose 2.8 percent to $23.40 after the L.A.-based casual dining restaurant chain's stock was upgraded to "strong buy" from "outperform" by equity firm Raymond James.
On the down side, shares of Jakks Pacific Inc. lost 2 percent to close at $21.60 after the Malibu-based toy company's stock was downgraded to "buy" from "strong buy" by Matrix USA.
Pacific Energy Partners LP lost 5.2 percent to $30 after the Long Beach-based crude oil company announced that an affiliate of First Reserve Corp. had acquired a minority interest in LB Pacific, LP, the owner of Pacific Energy, from Lehman Brothers Merchant Banking. As a result, First Reserve will be able to nominate one director to the Pacific Energy's board of directors.
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