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Wednesday October 18th, 2017 5:29AM

Stocks jump as relieved investors buy banks, insurers, tech

By The Associated Press
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NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks are jumping Monday after Hurricane Irma weakened without causing as much damage as many had feared. Travel companies and insurers are also rising and home-improvement companies like Lowe's and Home Depot, which rallied last week, fell.

Global investors were also relieved after a North Korean national holiday passed without any other actions that would raise tensions between that country and the U.S. Bond prices fell, sending yields higher. That helped bank stocks because rising yields mean banks can charge higher interest rates on loans.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index was on track for a new high. It rose 26 points, or 1.1 percent, to 2,487 as of 2:45 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 29 points, or 1.2 percent, to 22,057. The Nasdaq composite jumped 67 points, or 1.1 percent, to 6,427 and was also close to a record. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks added 14 points, or 1.1 percent, to 1,414.

The standoff between the U.S. and North Korea and worries about the damage from hurricanes Harvey and Irma had weighed on the market in the last month, and Monday's jump canceled out those losses.

STORMY WEATHER: Irma weakened shortly before it came ashore Sunday, and it is still battering Florida and Georgia. It's caused severe flooding and knocked out power to millions. While the damage is still being assessed, small insurers, especially ones that do a lot of business in Florida, climbed Monday as investors anticipate they won't have to pay out as much in claims as it looked like they would last week.

HCI Group jumped $5.28, or 17.2 percent, to $36.05 while Heritage Insurance gained $2.14, or 22.8 percent, to $11.51. Larger insurers also rallied. XL Group advanced $2.15, or 5.6 percent, to $40.76 and Travelers gained $2.99, or 2.5 percent, to $122.75.

Investors also expected that travel-related companies won't take such a big hit from the storm. Royal Caribbean Cruises jumped $3.92, or 3.3 percent, to $121.38 and American Airlines gained $2.39, or 5.5 percent, to $45.99. Travel booking site Priceline rose $24.61, or 1.3 percent, to $1,863.18.

THE QUOTE: "This is what happens when the market sells off in the face of what is really an awfully good fundamental environment," said Jim Paulsen, chief investment strategist for the Leuthold Group. He said investors are once again focused on strong economic growth in the U.S. and many other regions.

And while a gridlocked federal government hasn't done much to stimulate the economy, Paulsen said the weakening dollar and falling interest rates could give U.S. businesses a big boost.

"That's a huge stimulative force," he said.

NORTH KOREA: North Koreans observed 69th anniversary of the country's founding, but it the country did not test another intercontinental ballistic missile, as South Korea's government had warned it might do. Rising tensions between the U.S. and North Korea have weighed on stocks in recent weeks and raised the prices of gold and bonds.

Bond prices sank. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.12 from 2.05 percent.

LAGGARDS: Home improvement retailers fell. They climbed last week after investors anticipated their business could pick up as homeowners were affected by the storm. Home Depot dropped $1.58, or 1 percent, to $158.08 and Lowe's declined 87 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $77.69.

TECH ADVANCES: Technology companies helped lead the way. Apple, which will unveil its newest iPhone on Tuesday, rose $2.30, or 1.4 percent, to $160.93 and Facebook rose $2.35, or 1.4 percent, to $173.30. Microsoft added 66 cents to $74.65 and Mastercard rose $4.36, or 3.2 percent, to $141.58.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude rose 59 cents, or 1.2 percent, to $48.07 a barrel in New York while Brent crude, used to price international oils, added 6 cents to $53.84 a barrel in London.

OTHER COMMODITIES: In another sign investors were willing to take more risks, gold lost $15.50, or 1.1 percent, to $1,335.70 an ounce. Silver fell 22 cents, or 1.2 percent, to $17.90 an ounce. Copper added 2 cents to $3.07 a pound.

Wholesale gasoline lost 1 cent to $1.63 a gallon. Heating oil fell 2 cents to $1.74 a gallon. Natural gas rose 6 cents to $2.95 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Orange juice prices, which surged in early September, gave up some of their recent gains. Futures had risen to $1.54 a pound Friday from $1.30 at the end of August and slipped to $1.51 a pound on Monday.

CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 109.30 yen from 107.79 yen late Friday. The euro slid to $1.1967 from $1.12028.

OVERSEAS: Germany's DAX gained 1.4 percent and the French CAC 40 rose 1.2 percent. The FTSE 100 index in Britain picked up 0.5 percent. The benchmark Nikkei 225 index in Japan jumped 1.4 percent as the yen slipped, which eased pressure on exporters. The Kospi in South Korea advanced 0.7 percent and Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 1 percent.

___

AP Markets Writer Marley Jay can be reached at http://twitter.com/MarleyJayAP His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/marley%20jay

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Business, AP Business - Economy, AP Business - Financial Markets, AP Business - Industries, AP Business - Financial Services
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