Energy stocks lead markets higher; S&P 500 near record

Argentine cement producer Loma Negra's CEO Sergio Faifman, third from left, is cheered as he rings a New York Stock Exchange opening bell, Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017, to commemorate his company's IPO. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Trader James Riley, center, works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017. Stocks around the world continued to push higher Wednesday, led by companies that extract oil and other commodities from the ground. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Traders pause for a moment of silence on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017, in the wake of the terrorist attack in New York Tuesday. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
The Argentine and U.S. flags are lowered to half-staff on the facade of the New York Stock Exchange, Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017. The Argentine foreign ministry has identified the five of its citizens killed in the bike path attack near the World Trade Center on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Trader Gregory Rowe works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017. Stocks around the world continued to push higher Wednesday, led by companies that extract oil and other commodities from the ground. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Trader Peter Tuchman, left, and New York Stock Exchange President Tom Farley don caps marking "Dow 23,500," on the trading floor as the index crosses the milestone, Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017. Stocks around the world continued to push higher Wednesday, led by companies that extract oil and other commodities from the ground. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Argentine cement producer Loma Negra's CEO Sergio Faifman, third from left, is cheered as he rings a New York Stock Exchange ceremonial bell, Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017, to commemorate his company's IPO start of trading. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
FILE - In this Friday, Nov. 13, 2015, file photo, the American flag flies above the Wall Street entrance to the New York Stock Exchange. U.S. stocks are rising Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017, after a survey showed a rebound in hiring by private companies in October and energy companies are rising with the price of crude oil. Estee Lauder is among the companies rising after a strong quarterly earnings report. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

NEW YORK — Stocks pushed higher around the world Wednesday, led by energy companies and raw-material producers. The Standard & Poor's 500 index flirted with its record high, though it pared its gain as the day went on.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 rose nearly 6 points, or 0.2 percent, to a shade above its record closing high of 2,581.07 set last week, as of 12:20 p.m. Eastern time. It had been up as much as 0.5 percent earlier in the day.

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 57 points, or 0.2 percent, to 23,434, and the Nasdaq composite fell 6 points, or 0.1 percent, to 6,721. Smaller stocks lagged behind the rest of the market, and the small-cap Russell 2000 index lost nearly 12 points, or 0.8 percent, to 1,491.

ENERGIZED: Oil producers led the market higher, and energy stocks in the S&P 500 jumped 1.2 percent for the biggest gain among the 11 sectors that make up the index.

Earlier in the day, the price of benchmark U.S. crude topped $55 per barrel to touch its highest level since Jan. 3. It backtracked as the day went on, though, and by midday it was down 3 cents to $54.35 per barrel. Brent crude, the international standard, slipped 16 cents to $60.78 per barrel.

Stocks of raw-material producers were also strong, and those in the S&P 500 climbed 0.5 percent. They benefited from a rise in the price of copper, which rose 4 cents, or 1.3 percent, to $3.14 per pound, and other metals.

BEAUTIFUL: Estee Lauder jumped to the biggest gain in the S&P 500 after strong sales growth in China and Hong Kong helped it to report higher revenue and earnings for the latest quarter than analysts expected. It rose $9.64, or 8.6 percent, to $121.45.

EARNINGS SURPRISE: Estee Lauder joined the growing list of companies that have beat analysts' expectations for the most recent quarter. Nearly two thirds of companies in the S&P 500 have said how much profit they earned from July through September, and the majority have topped Wall Street's forecasts.

Technology stocks have been particularly strong, with 68 percent reporting both earnings and revenue above analysts' estimates.

TAX TIMETABLE: Stocks have been rising in recent weeks in part on expectations that Congress is making progress in its efforts to cut tax rates, which would boost profits for companies. Small-cap stocks and companies that pay higher tax rates in particular have been moving up and down with the expectations.

But House Republicans missed a self-imposed Wednesday deadline for a public release of their tax plan, as members debate whether to change the tax benefits of 401(k) contributions and other details. The rollout appears set for Thursday.

ENCOURAGING ECONOMIC DATA: Private employers added more jobs than economists expected last month, according to a survey by ADP. That raises expectations that Friday's more comprehensive jobs report from the government will also be strong.

Reports keep piling up that paint an encouraging picture of the economy. Earlier this week, reports showed that consumer confidence and spending are both on the rise.

CENTRAL BANKS: Several of the world's largest central banks are meeting this week, and the Federal Reserve wraps up a two-day meeting today. Most economists expect it to hold interest rates steady and wait until its December gathering to raise rates for the third time this year.

Earlier in the week, the Bank of Japan decided to keep its interest rates at ultra-low levels. On Thursday, the Bank of England is expected to raise interest rates, which would be the first increase in a decade.

Investors also expect President Donald Trump to name his choice to be the next chair of the Federal Reserve by the end of the week.

MARKETS ABROAD: The French CAC 40 rose 0.3 percent, the FTSE 100 in London was close to flat and Germany's DAX rose 1.9 percent. The Japanese Nikkei 225 index jumped 1.9 percent, South Korea's Kospi gained 1.3 percent and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong climbed 1.2 percent.

CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 114.02 Japanese yen from 113.71 yen late Tuesday. The euro dipped to $1.1619 from $1.1651, and the British pound slipped to $1.3254 from $1.3282.

YIELDS: The 10-year Treasury yield dipped to 2.35 percent from 2.38 percent late Tuesday. The two-year yield held steady at 1.60 percent, and the 30-year yield dipped to 2.84 percent from 2.88 percent.

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AP Business Writer Yuri Kageyama in Tokyo contributed to this report.

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