NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks were modestly higher afternoon trading Tuesday, pushed by energy companies who have seen record electricity prices due to the frigid cold impacting much of the country. Investors remain steadily focused on stimulus talks in Washington, which are marching forward now with former President Donald Trump's second impeachment trial now over.
The S&P 500 index was up less than 0.1% as of 12:29 p.m. Eastern, with energy companies accounting for a big part of the gains. The top 10 biggest gainers included companies like Marathon Oil, Occidental Petroleum, Marathon Petroleum and Diamondback Energy.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 83 points, or 0.3%, to 31,541 and the Nasdaq Composite index was down 0.2%. All markets closed at record highs on Friday. U.S. markets were closed Monday for a holiday.
Energy prices rose sharply, as record demand for heating across much of the frigid Midwest and Texas has pushed electricity prices higher. Prices for natural gas, which is the country's primary way to produce quick “on-demand” electricity when needed, was up 4% to its highest level since November, when hurricane season impacted some natural gas production along the Gulf Coast.
Heating oil prices were up 2%, much less than natural gas, since it's primarily used in the Northeast in older boilers to heat homes. The Northeast hasn't seen unreasonable temperatures for this time of the year.
Bond yields rose sharply. The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 1.28% from 1.20% late Friday, a big move that also marks its highest level in a year. Bank stocks made broad gains on the higher yields, which allow them to charge more lucrative interest rates on loans. Bank of America rose 3% and JPMorgan Chase rose 2.5%.
Investors continue to look to Washington. With the second impeachment trial over, investors believe Congress can now make progress toward passing President Biden's $1.9 trillion stimulus plan. The package would include one-time payments to Americans plus additional assistance to industries, states and jurisdictions impacted by the pandemic. Democrats in Congress have elected to use a Senate process known as reconciliation, which does not require 60 votes in the Senate to pass.
Much of Asia remains closed in observance of the Lunar New Year and European markets were mostly lower.