US stocks hold on to much of an early rally; Oil prices fall

U.S. stocks edged higher in morning trading Thursday after paring some early gains as traders returned from the Independence Day holiday. Gains in technology and health care stocks outweighed losses in industrials companies and elsewhere. Energy stocks also declined along with crude oil prices....

U.S. stocks edged higher in morning trading Thursday after paring some early gains as traders returned from the Independence Day holiday. Gains in technology and health care stocks outweighed losses in industrials companies and elsewhere. Energy stocks also declined along with crude oil prices. Investors were girding for more global trade tensions Friday, when U.S. tariffs on billions in Chinese imports are set to kick in.

KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 index rose 11 points, or 0.4 percent, to 2,724 as of 11:29 a.m. Eastern Time. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 108 points, or 0.5 percent, to 24,283. The Nasdaq added 39 points, or 0.5 percent, to 7,542. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks picked up 4 points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,664.

U.S.-CHINA TRADE TIFF: On Friday the U.S. is set to impose a 25 percent tariff on $34 billion worth of Chinese imports. And China is expected to strike back with tariffs on a similar amount of U.S. exports. The big question is how far the two countries will go in their dispute over trade. On Thursday in China, Commerce Ministry spokesman Gao Feng hit back at "threats and blackmail" ahead of the planned U.S. tariff hike. He added that China would be forced to fight back to protect its own interests.

TECH RALLY: Technology stocks posted solid gains. Chipmaker Micron Technology rose 2 percent to $52.49.

HEALTHY MOVE: Several health care sector stocks also helped lift the market. Biotechnology company Biogen gained 1 percent to $296.37.

CHAPTER CLOSED: Barnes & Noble added 0.9 percent to $5.90 after the company fired its CEO late Tuesday.

CHECKERED FLAG: International Speedway jumped 4.7 percent to $47.48 after the car racing and entertainment company posted earnings and revenue that came in ahead of analysts' forecasts.

TURBULENT TAKEOFF: Shares in Brazilian jet maker Embraer tumbled 10.5 percent to $23.45 on news that the company will form a joint venture with Boeing that would push the U.S. aerospace giant more aggressively into the regional aircraft market. The new company has faced heavy scrutiny from lawmakers in Brazil. Boeing shares fell 0.2 percent to $332.11.

TUNED OUT: TiVo slid 3.8 percent to $13.33 after the digital video recorder pioneer said its CEO has resigned to pursue another opportunity.

BOND YIELDS: Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 2.82 percent from 2.83 percent late Tuesday.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude slid 90 cents, or 1.2 percent, to $73.24 per barrel in New York. The contract settled at $74.14 a barrel on Tuesday, after rising to over $75 a barrel in early trading. Brent crude, used to price international oils, dropped 39 cents to $77.85 per barrel in London.

The slide in oil weighed on some energy companies. Marathon Petroleum lost 3 percent to $68.78.

CURRENCIES: The dollar fell to 110.58 yen from 110.62 yen on Tuesday. The euro strengthened to $1.1703 from $1.1652.

MARKETS OVERSEAS: Major indexes in Europe rallied following a German newspaper report saying that the U.S. may propose reducing auto tariffs to zero. Germany's DAX jumped 1.1 percent and France's CAC 40 climbed 0.9 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 gained 0.3 percent.

In Asia, markets were subdued after China reaffirmed its determination to protect its interests in a rancorous trade dispute with Washington. Japan's Nikkei 225 index fell 0.8 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng index closed 0.2 percent lower.

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