Stocks turn higher as crude oil tops $100 a barrel

The oil rally is on again.

The oil rally is on again.

Stocks closed higher Wednesday for the first day this week as rising oil prices offset worries about the global economic recovery. Oil rose nearly $2 to settle at $101.32 per barrel, pushing energy stocks higher.

Cabot Oil and Gas Corp. led the S&P 500, rising 7 percent. Higher prices for copper, silver and other commodities lifted miners and other material companies. Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. gained 2 percent.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 38.45 points, or 0.3 percent, to close at 12,394.66. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 4.19, or 0.3 percent, to 1,320.47. The Nasdaq composite rose 15.22, or 0.6 percent, to 2,761.38.

Markets have been battered in recent days by new worries over Europe's debt crisis. The last time stocks closed higher was Thursday, when investors welcomed a blockbuster initial public offering by the social networking site LinkedIn Corp.

Greece's government and opposition party failed late Tuesday to reach agreement on how to pare the country's debts, adding to the uncertainty surrounding Greece's financial future. Many analysts believe Greece will eventually have to restructure its debt, possibly by extending interest payments or lowering interest rates.

Without that restructuring, Greece might default. That would cause a domino effect, raising borrowing rates for larger European countries and hampering the world economy.

Japan's government reported that the country's exports fell by 12.5 percent in April after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami shuttered factories and forced manufacturers to stop production. Japan's auto shipments were particularly hurt, dropping 67 percent. The report added to concerns that the global economy is a long way from returning to health.

The drop in Japanese exports hit orders for long-lasting goods in the U.S. The Commerce Department said companies ordered fewer computers, heavy machines, cars and airplanes from factories in April. The 3.8 percent drop was the biggest in 6 months, reflecting a decline in U.S. business investment.

Stocks had been on a steady climb since last August until the Japanese catastrophe shook global financial markets in March. Strong corporate earnings sent stocks back up in April, but markets have stalled in the past three weeks. The S&P 500 closed at 1,363 on April 29, its highest level of the year, and has drifted lower ever since.

Some analysts say the market may have been rising too far, too fast since the beginning of the year, making stocks seem expensive. The Dow is still up 7 percent for the year. The S&P 500 is up 5 percent.

"A pullback in the market is probably healthy," said Michael Sansoterra, portfolio manager at Silvant Capital Management.

Fertilizer company CF Industries rose 3 percent a day after a JPMorgan upgraded the stock, citing the company's good cash flow and positive predictions for the agriculture industry.

Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia jumped 24 percent. The company announced that it had hired the Blackstone Group as an adviser, triggering speculation the whole company will be put up for sale.

Retail stocks struggled. Polo Ralph Lauren Corp. sank 11 percent after reporting that higher costs pushed profit down 36 percent. Discount retailer Costco Wholesale Corp. slipped 1 percent after reporting earnings that missed analysts' estimates.

American International Group Inc. fell 4 percent to $28.28 as the U.S. Treasury Department sold some of its stake in the company. Treasury said it would sell 300 million AIG shares for $29 each, making a small profit. The price was set late Tuesday at the low end of the government's projected range.

Roughly two shares rose for every one that fell on the New York Stock Exchange. Trading volume was 3.7 billion shares.

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