U.S. stocks modestly higher

U.S. stocks were holding on to modest gains in choppy trading Wednesday as investors sized up the latest batch of company earnings. Energy stocks were among the big gainers as crude oil prices surged. Solid gains in industrial stocks outweighed losses among food and beverage companies and banks.

KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 index rose 9 points, or 0.4 percent, to 2,715 as of 3 p.m. Eastern Time. The Dow Jones industrial average added 7 points to 24,794. The Nasdaq composite gained 36 points, or 0.5 percent, to 7,317. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks picked up 8 points, or 0.5 percent, to 1,588.

THE QUOTE: “Earnings are the principal thing this week,” said Paul Christopher, head of global market strategy for Wells Fargo Investment Institute. “The market wants to see more consistent evidence of strong earnings.”

STRONG LIFT: Textron jumped 6.6 percent to $63.88 after the plane and helicopter maker delivered quarterly results that beat analysts’ forecasts. The company also said it will sell its tools and test division to Emerson for $810 million.

HIGH FLYER: Shares in United Continental climbed 6.5 percent to $71.73 after the airline company raised its earnings outlook for the year.

ON TRACK: CSX rose 7 percent to $60.51 after the railroad operator said its latest quarterly profit almost doubled as the company slashed costs. CSX also said it is running trains on a tighter schedule and using fewer locomotives.

SHOPPING ON TV: Best Buy added 3.5 percent to $75.27 after the consumer electronics retailer announced a partnership with Amazon to sell new Fire TV that allow users to order goods through Amazon.

CHIPS ARE DOWN: Lam Research dropped 5.6 percent to $200.40 after the semiconductor manufacturing equipment maker said it expects shipments to decrease in the second quarter compared to the first. Applied Materials lost 5.3 percent to $54.81.

ROUGH QUARTER: Shares in IBM slid 7.4 percent to $149.01 after the technology company said its profit margins decreased and analysts weren’t impressed with its first-quarter results.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude rose $1.95, or 2.9 percent, to settle at $68.47 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price international oils, added $1.90, or 2.7 percent, to close at $73.48 per barrel in London.

The surge in oil prices helped lift energy stocks. Newfield Exploration added 7 percent to $28.19.

TRADE TENSIONS: China imposed preliminary anti-dumping tariffs of 178.6 percent on U.S. sorghum. The United States told the World Trade Organization it has agreed to discuss with China the Trump administration’s tariff increases on steel and other Chinese goods. President Donald Trump has threatened to raise tariffs on up to $150 billion of Chinese goods due to disputes over technology policy, market access and Beijing’s trade surplus with the United States. China responded with its own list of U.S. goods for retaliation. Investors worry other governments might raise their own import barriers.

BOND YIELDS: Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 2.86 percent from 2.83 percent late Tuesday.

CURRENCIES: The dollar gained to 107.24 yen from Tuesday’s 107.02 yen. The euro rose to $1.2380 from $1.2367.

METALS: Gold rose $4 to $1,353.50 an ounce. Silver gained 46 cents, or 2.7 percent, to $17.25 an ounce. Copper added 8 cents to $3.16 a pound.

OVERSEAS: In Europe, Germany’s DAX was ended flat, while France’s CAC 40 rose 0.5 percent. Britain’s FTSE 100 added 1.3 percent. Indexes in Asia finished higher. Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 rose 1.4 percent, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng added 0.7 percent. Seoul’s Kospi rose 1.1 percent.