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US: Dow, S&P 500 edge up as oil, growth worries weigh


[NEW YORK] The Dow and S&P 500 finished barely positive Tuesday as worries about falling oil prices and the slowing global economy tamped down an earlier rally.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 27.94 points (0.17 per cent) to 16,016.01, while the broad-based S&P 500 added a mere 1.00 (0.05 per cent) at 1,881.33.

The tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index shed 11.47 (0.26 per cent) at 4,476.07.

Following the stock market's closure Monday for a public holiday, the session had started on a heady note, with US stocks joining a global rally on speculation that the Chinese government would enact more stimulus in response to slowing growth.

But the rally fizzled as worries about falling oil prices returned the forefront.

"We're just sort of waiting for some stability," said Chris Low, chief economist at FTN Financial.

Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank, said expectations of a lackluster US corporate earnings season has discouraged stock purchases.

"My base case is muddle," Mr Ablin said. "Short of any upside surprises economically, we need to see equity prices fall another 10 per cent." Petroleum-linked equities continued to stumble as US oil prices dropped.

Dow member Chevron lost 2.6 per cent, Halliburton fell 3.4 per cent and Marathon Oil lost 5.7 per cent.

Delta Air Lines rose 3.3 per cent after reporting fourth-quarter earnings of US$980 million, compared with a loss of US$712 million in the year-ago period. Results were boosted by a 42 per cent drop in fuel expenses.

Twitter sank 7.0 per cent after suffering an outage for hours in several key markets. A spokesperson for Twitter Europe confirmed the site was down, while users in South Africa, Brazil, the Philippines, Nigeria and Uganda also reported problems.

Tiffany fell 5.1 per cent as it said worldwide net sales declined three percent in the key November-December period due in part to the strong dollar and weak tourist activity in some markets. The jeweller also lowered its earnings forecast, projecting a decline of 10 per cent for the year, in part due to severance expenses from cutting staff.

Johnson & Johnson rose 0.5 per cent as it announced it will cut 3,000 jobs to save costs in its medical devices business.