July 3 - Summary: Stocks post modest gains with faster private hiring partly offset by slower service sector growth; Oil temporary tops $102 on Egypt; Hospital stocks ill on healthcare reform delay. Conway G. Gittens reports.
Stocks close the holiday-shortened session off the highs of the day, with economic data giving investors some encouragement. The Dow rose 56 points, the S&P 500 gained a point and the Nasdaq was up 10 points. More on the economy in a few seconds, but first - political uncertainty in Egypt. The country's national security advisor says a military coup is underway. U.S. crude jumped as high as $102 by the time of the early stock market close - a 14 month high. Back to the U.S.: the White House is delaying parts of the Affordable Care Act for a year. There is some fear that without the reform, hospitals won't get paid by the millions of Americans who are uninsured or underinsured. Hospital operators like Tenet, Universal Health, Health Management and HCA Holdings all down more than 3 and 4 percent. Rounding up the day's economic reports: Private hiring grew more than expected in June. Layoff announcements were up last month, but down for the first half of the year. And initial jobless claims dropped for the second week in a row. This is still a slow-healing jobs market, says Rutgers University professor and labor economist - Bill Rodgers. SOUNDBITE: WILLIAM RODGERS, PROFESSOR/LABOR ECONOMIST, RUTGERS UNIVERSITY (ENGLISH) SAYING: "We are improving but it's an economy that's, I would say, still stuck in third gear. We haven't seem to have found that new catalyst to help to propel and be that new engine of growth." In other June data: growth in the services sector - the slowest in more than two years. Meanwhile, the U.S. trade deficit swelled in May due to a surge in imports and weak demand abroad for U.S. products. One more piece of economic news: mortgage applications dropped last week -dented by higher borrowing costs. In Europe: A flare-up in Portugal bond yields caused a headache across the region - stocks in Germany, France and the U.K. each down more than 1 percent.