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TheStreet Open House

Energy Stocks Cap Market Gains as Crude Oil Inventories Rise

Stocks in this article: ^DJI ^GSPC ^IXIC AAPL YHOO PG CAT BABA BA T FSL HES

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Energy stocks were limiting gains on broader equity markets Tuesday as crude oil futures plummeted. Stocks remained higher. however, with the tech-heavy Nasdaq enjoying a particularly strong session on the back of better-than-expected earnings from Apple (AAPL - Get Report) and Yahoo! (YHOO - Get Report)

The S&P 500 was up 0.19%, down from gains of more than 0.5% earlier. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.28%, and the Nasdaq jumped 0.82%. 

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Crude oil prices slipped on Wednesday as U.S. inventories increased 8.9 million barrels over the week, nearly double estimates of 4.6 million barrels. West Texas Intermediate crude dropped 2.5% to $45.07 a barrel.

Goldman Sachs warned commodities will lag equities and bonds over the next three months. The bank slashed its outlook on raw materials to "underweight," with expectations of a 10% loss compared to a 0.4% gain for stocks.

"Despite the large declines in commodity prices, we see risks still skewed to the downside over the near term," Goldman analysts wrote in a report.

Exxon Mobil (XOM) , Chevron (CVX) , Anadarko Petroleum (APC) and Halliburton (HAL) were trading lower. The Energy Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLE) dropped more than 2%.

Solid earnings from Apple and Yahoo! were a welcome relief after stocks suffered their worst day in three weeks on Tuesday following weak results from multinational companies such as Procter & Gamble (PG) and Caterpillar (CAT)

The earnings season has been healthy so far, despite the series of earnings disappointments on Tuesday that might have suggested otherwise. Of the nearly one-third of companies that have reported, 70.3% have exceeded analysts' earnings forecasts, according to Thomson Reuters. On average, during any given earnings season, 63% of companies will top expectations. 

Apple shares soared more than 7% after fiscal first-quarter earnings of $3.06 a share rocketed past expectations by 45 cents. Sales jumped nearly 30% following a surge in iPhone sales, its best-selling product. 

Yahoo! rose 1.9% after narrowly beating fourth-quarter forecasts. Management also announced it had authorized the tax-free spinoff of its remaining stake in Alibaba (BABA) . Yahoo! currently holds a 15% position, worth $39.5 billion. 

Boeing (BA) gained 4.6% as quarterly core earnings of $2.31 a share surpassed forecasts by 20 cents. Sales of commercial airplanes jumped 15%in the fourth quarter. 

AT&T (T) reported in-line profit for the quarter, though shares jumped on increased revenue thanks to double the number of wireless subscriber additions. Shares were up 1.2%.

Semiconductor company Freescale (FSL) rallied 20.3% after reporting quarterly profit above consensus and guiding for first-quarter revenue as high as $1.185 billion, exceeding forecasts of $1.11 billion. 

Hess (HES) disappointed, posting a loss of 3 cents a share compared to profit of $5.76 a share a year earlier. The oil and gas refinery was hit hard by plummeting oil prices over the past six months. Shares tumbled nearly 5%.

The Federal Reserve will conclude its first meeting of the year Wednesday with an announcement around 2 p.m. EST. There are few expectations the Fed will signal a significant change in tone, instead reiterating its "patience" and "data-dependence" in determining when to raise rates. 

"The forward guidance that Chair [Janet] Yellen articulated last month, which removed the possibility of rate hikes at the next "couple of meetings", largely renders today's FOMC statement a placeholder for March, by which point Fed officials will have a better sense of whether or not recent momentum is being sustained," said Joseph LaVorgna, chief U.S. economist at Deutsche Bank.

STOCKS TO BUY: TheStreet Quant Ratings has identified a handful of stocks that can potentially TRIPLE in the next 12 months. Learn more.

-- Written by Keris Alison Lahiff in New York. 

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