US stock indexes drift higher in early trading

Friday, June 24, 2016, Vol. 40, No. 26
ALEX VEIGA, AP Business Writer

U.S. stock indexes drifted between small gains and losses in early trading Thursday as investors weighed the latest batch of company earnings news. The market was coming off a two-day rally as investors' anxiety about Britain's vote last week to leave the European Union eased. Consumer and industrial companies were among the biggest risers.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average gained 40 points, or 0.2 percent, to 17,735 at 10:21 a.m. Eastern Time. The Standard & Poor's 500 index was up 3 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,073. The Nasdaq composite added 3 points, less than 0.1 percent, to 4,781.

NETWORKING: Lions Gate Entertainment, which owns the "Orange Is The New Black" Netflix series, climbed 3.2 percent after announcing it would buy the cable channel Starz. The stock gained 68 cents to $21.62.

BOOST FOR BANKS: Bank stocks rose broadly after getting clearance from the Federal Reserve to raise their dividends and buy back shares. Many of them announced plans to do so immediately after the Fed's announcement late Wednesday. Huntington Bancshares led the gainers in the S&P 500 index, rising 30 cents, or 3.5 percent, to $8.80. Citizens Financial Group added 47 cents, or 2.4 percent, to $19.99.

PASS THE PASTA: Darden Restaurants fell 4.2 after the parent company of Olive Garden forecast a profit for its fiscal 2017 that fell short of Wall Street expectations. The company also reported total sales for its fiscal fourth quarter that fell short of expectations. The stock shed $2.75 to $63.21.

STRESS OUT: Deutsche Bank slid 3.3 percent after the Federal Reserve rejected its plans to return capital to shareholders through dividend increases and share buybacks. The stock fell 55 cents, or 4 percent, to $13.54.

WICKERED OUT: Pier 1 Imports slumped 7 percent after the home decor retailer reported disappointing quarterly results. The stock lost 58 cents to $5.06.

LAYOFFS PROXY: The Labor Department said applications for unemployment benefits rose last week, but the level of claims remains low enough to suggest that most workers enjoy job security. Unemployment claims have remained below 300,000 for 69 straight weeks, the longest such streak since 1973.

BRITAIN: Worries over Britain's historic vote last week to leave the European Union have been easing. Stocks and the British pound plunged in the days after the vote last Thursday. Britain's stock market has recouped its losses, though that is largely thanks to the pound's drop, which helps the big companies' overseas earnings. Other indexes of companies more focused on the British economy are still down sharply.

EUROPEAN MARKETS: Britain's FTSE 100 rose 0.3 percent, helped by the pound's 10 percent drop since last week. Germany's DAX slipped 0.1 percent and France's CAC 40 rose 0.3 percent.

ASIA'S DAY: Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 edged up 0.1 percent, while South Korea's Kospi rose 0.7 percent. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 added 1.8 percent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index rose 1.5.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude was down $1.28, or 2.6 percent, at $48.60 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, was down $1.31, or 2.6 percent, at $50 a barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The yen, seen as a safe haven, strengthened sharply after the British referendum, it has become less volatile since then. The dollar was trading at 102.83 yen, up from 102.56 yen on Wednesday. The pound slipped to $1.3397 from $1.3431, still down sharply from the pre-vote level of $1.50. The euro fell to $1.1100 from $1.1106.

BONDS: Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 1.48 percent from 1.52 late Wednesday.