Wall Street regained a bit of composure on Wednesday, paring back dramatic losses from the week’s previous trading sessions as energy stocks jumped on the promise of higher oil prices resulting from what now appears to be certain direct US action against Syria.
For a third straight day, economic data took a back seat to geopolitics, as the Obama administration moves ever-closer to punitive strikes against the Syrian regime, in response to last week’s alleged chemical weapons attack outside of Damascus left a death toll of an estimated 1,000 persons.
Pending home sales for the month of July fell 1.3 percent, against the predictions of economists who expected the reading to remain flat. The news follows other recent and disappointing indicators for new home sales and housing starts, and has shaken some of the confidence that has been patiently built in the housing-market recovery that has generally been seen as one of the most significant components of the US economic recovery.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 index finished the day at 1,634.96 points, 0.27 percent higher, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.33 percent to 14,824.51, and the NASDAQ ended on a 0.41 percent gain at 3,592.35 at the closing bell.
Oil companies posted the biggest gains on the S&P 500, with independent producers Marathon Oil ($MRO), Pioneer Natural Resources ($PXD), Newfield Exploration (NFX) , and EOG Resources (EOG) all ending the day significantly higher. Majors Exxon Mobil (XOM) and Chevron (CVX) also watched shares jump on the seeming inevitability of higher per-barrel prices for crude.
Energy stocks were also perched near the top of the Dow by the end of the regular trading session, but Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) was the index’s best performer after news that the company’s Vertica analytical platform would be used by healthcare provider Cerner Corporation (CERN) .
Tech shares carried the day on the NASDAQ, with Facebook (FB) advancing once again, and BlackBerry (BBRY) ending the day higher after speculation that the formerly dominant smartphone maker would be spinning off its popular instant messaging service. Cable television services provider TiVo (TIVO) rose along with tech stocks, up 5.5 percent to $11.60 by closing.