S&P 500 rises a bit, and Dow Jones drops a little as investors watch Ukraine - The Buffalo News

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S&P 500 rises a bit, and Dow Jones drops a little as investors watch Ukraine

U.S. stocks erased losses, a day after the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index had its biggest decline in a week, as investors watched developments in Ukraine and weighed prospects for global economic growth.

Newmont Mining Corp. and Barrick Gold Corp. climbed more than 2.6 percent as gold jumped. EPL Oil & Gas Inc. surged 29 percent after Energy XXI (Bermuda) Ltd. agreed to buy it for $1.5 billion. PulteGroup Inc. and Toll Brothers Inc. slipped after Credit Suisse Group AG downgraded the shares.

The S&P 500 rose less than 0.1 percent to 1,868.20, after declining as much as 0.7 percent earlier in the session. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 11.17 points, or 0.1 percent, to 16,340.08. About 6.4 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, 3 percent less than the three- month average.

“We saw a pretty healthy sell-off based on China slowdown fears and potential Russian expansion,” said Walter “Bucky” Hellwig, who helps manage $17 billion at BB&T Wealth Management in Birmingham, Ala. “The concerns of what’s going on are still on the minds of investors, and they’re putting money into safe haven assets like U.S. Treasuries and gold. On the other hand, we’re seeing stocks aren’t completely out of the picture.”

Russia’s takeover of Crimea, home to its Black Sea Fleet, has sparked the worst crisis with the West since the Cold War as the European Union and the U.S. try to use sanctions to force President Vladimir Putin to retreat.

“Investors are keeping an eye on what’s happening with Ukraine and Russia,” said Christian Zogg, who manages about $540 million as head of equity and fixed income at LLB Asset Management AG in Vaduz, Liechtenstein. “After the good fourth- quarter earnings season, the positive sentiment is slowly but surely priced in.”

About 70 percent of S&P 500 companies that reported earnings for the latest quarter beat analysts’ profit estimates, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

The S&P 500 has gained 1.1 percent this year, reaching a record close March 7, after Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen said the U.S. economy was strong enough to withstand measured reductions to the central bank’s monthly bond purchases. Three rounds of Fed stimulus have helped push the S&P 500 up 176 percent from a 12-year low, as U.S. equities begin the sixth year of a bull market that started March 9, 2009.

Investors have added $12.8 billion to U.S. equity exchange-traded funds in the past five days and withdrawn $2.4 billion from bond ETFs, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

Real-estate stocks absorbed the most money among industry ETFs, taking in $156 million during the past week.

EPL Oil & Gas climbed 29 percent, its biggest gain on record, to $37.50. Energy XXI agreed to buy the company to become the largest public independent producer on the Gulf of Mexico shelf.

Energy XXI fell 7.8 percent to $21.54. The company has sought to grow through acquisitions and the use of horizontal drilling to help boost oil recovery.

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