NEW YORK — U.S. stock indexes finished with tiny gains Wednesday as retailers jumped after a strong hiring forecast from Target and energy companies rose along with oil prices.
Companies that sell everything from clothing to electronics rose after Target said it will hire 100,000 workers for the holiday season, about 30,000 more than it did a year ago. Energy companies rose after the U.S. government said oil and gasoline stockpiles shrank last week. Those gains were almost canceled out as technology and health care companies, which have led the market higher this year, slipped.
With stocks at record highs, investors hunted for bargains. Retailers and energy and telecommunications companies have all struggled this year and finished higher Wednesday.
One reason stocks may have held steady: the Federal Reserve will meet next week, and along with the usual questions about interest rates and the Fed’s balance sheet, investors are wondering about the central bank’s leadership. Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s four-year term will end in February and it’s not clear if President Donald Trump will re-appoint her or replace her.
“There are factions of the Fed, as well as potential Fed chair candidates, that are less focused on market reactions and will be more focused on the need to raise rates from their current levels to offset a future recession,” said Eric Freedman, chief investment officer for U.S. Bank Wealth Management.
Freedman said Yellen has made a priority of informing Wall Street about the Fed’s plans and taking investor reactions into account. A different Fed chair might not do that, which could lead to a bumpier ride for stocks.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 index added 1.89 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,498.37. The Dow Jones industrial average picked up 39.32 points, or 0.2 percent, to 22,158.18. The Nasdaq composite rose 5.91 points, or 0.1 percent, to 6,460.19. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks gained 3.43 points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,426.89.
Target said it plans to hire 100,000 workers for the holidays, some 30,000 more than it hired a year ago. Its stock climbed $1.62, or 2.8 percent, to $59.51. Best Buy rose $1.81, or 3.2 percent, to $58.60 and Gap gained 61 cents, or 2.2 percent, to $28.22. Video game seller GameStop added 49 cents, or 2.5 percent, to $20.02 and Amazon.com rose $17.02, or 1.7 percent, to $999.60.
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