Stocks edge higher in quiet post-holiday trading; Disney has worst day in three months

NEW YORK, N.Y. – Stocks finished mostly higher Friday as they wrapped up a quiet week of trading.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fluctuated early on, but managed to eke out a small gain as telecommunications and financial stocks rose. Disney dragged down the Dow Jones industrial average after the company said ESPN lost 3 million subscribers in the last year. Oil prices slumped, dragging down energy stocks.

The Dow fell 14.90 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 17,798.49. The S&P 500 picked up 1.24 points, or less than 0.1 per cent, to 2,090.11. The Nasdaq composite index added 11.38 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 5,127.52.

U.S. markets were closed Thursday for the Thanksgiving holiday, and closed at 1 p.m. on Friday.

Stocks didn’t have much momentum in a week of light trading. The market made its biggest weekly gain of 2015 last week, but this week the Dow fell 0.1 per cent and the S&P 500 rose less than 0.1 per cent.

Oil prices dropped. Benchmark U.S. crude fell $1.33, or 3.1 per cent, to $41.71 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, gave up 60 cents, or 1.3 per cent, to $44.86 a barrel in London.

The largest losers on the S&P 500 were energy stocks. Consol Energy lost 52 cents, or 6.5 per cent, to $7.48 and Southwestern Energy gave up 68 cents, or 7.2 per cent, to $8.74.

Prudential Financial market strategist Quincy Krosby said oil prices gained a premium this week because of geopolitical concerns like increased military action against the Islamic State and growing tensions between Russia and Turkey after Turkey shot down a Russian fighter plane on Tuesday.

Krosby said those gains may not last long. Next week OPEC will hold a meeting in Vienna, and the group could send oil prices higher by deciding to cut back on production. Or, it could decide to keep producing oil at its present rate, which might make prices fall further.

That premium on the price of oil “can move up dramatically but also come down or dissipate just as quickly,” Krosby said.

Disney fell $3.54, or 3 per cent, to $115.13, its biggest one-day loss since August. Late Wednesday, Disney disclosed that U.S. subscribers to its ESPN sports channel fell for the second year in a row, to 92 million as of Oct. 3, matching the lowest total since 2006. ESPN’s subscriber totals had hovered around 100 million for years.

Disney has said that ESPN has lost subscribers, but investors appeared shaken by the size of the losses. Small but growing numbers of people are opting out of traditional cable TV bundles and buying smaller, less expensive groups of channels instead. Investors in media companies are worried about potential losses of subscribers and revenue.

A dispute over the health and mental capacity of media mogul Sumner Redstone hit shares of Viacom, the owner of media properties including Paramount Pictures, Comedy Central, MTV and Nickelodeon. In a lawsuit filed Wednesday, Manuela Herzer, Redstone’s former companion, said the 92-year-old executive can’t make informed decisions anymore and needs medical care at all times. Lawyers for Redstone, who controls the shareholder vote at Viacom as well as at CBS, disputed the claims.

Viacom’s Class B shares fell $1.19, or 2.3 per cent, to $51.16.

Spam maker Hormel didn’t miss a beat over the holiday break, rising $1.46, or 2 per cent, to $75.01. Earlier this week Hormel posted strong-quarterly results and announced a planned stock split. Its shares rose 10 per cent this week.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise also continued to rise. The technology services company, formerly part of Hewlett-Packard, saw an increase in sales of data-centre hardware during the fourth quarter. Its shares added 23 cents, or 1.3 per cent, to $14.35 after picking up 3 per cent Wednesday.

Retail stocks didn’t move much on Black Friday, when millions of shoppers hit the stores in search of bargains. Target rose 28 cents to $73.44 and Wal-Mart Stores dipped 35 cents to $59.89. Amazon fell $2.08 to $673.26.

In other energy trading, wholesale gasoline fell 0.6 cents to $1.391 a gallon. Heating oil fell 5 cents, or 3.6 per cent, to $1.352 a gallon. Natural gas tumbled 8.7 cents, or 3.8 per cent, to $2.212 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Gold fell $13.80, or 1.3 per cent, to $1,056.20 an ounce. Silver declined 15 cents, or 1.1 per cent, to $14.008 an ounce. Copper inched up 0.5 cents to $2.051 a pound.

U.S. government bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.22 per cent from 2.24 per cent late Wednesday. The euro fell to $1.0597 from $1.0617 and dollar rose to 122.84 yen from 122.72 yen.


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