By KEN SWEET
NEW YORK — U.S. stocks closed effectively flat in quiet trading Wednesday as investors waited to see what the outcome would be of an emergency meeting between Greece and the rest of the eurozone to discuss the country’s finances.
Energy stocks were among the biggest decliners as the price of oil fell.
The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) edged down 6.62 points, or 0.04 percent, to 17,862.14. The Standard Poor’s 500 index (^GSPC) closed flat, down 0.06 of a point to 2,068.53 and the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) rose 13.54 points, or 0.3 percent, to 4,801.18.
Once again, investors turned their eyes to Europe. Finance ministers from nations that use the euro held an emergency meeting in Brussels on Wednesday, the group’s first opportunity to hear directly from Greece’s new government.
Greece wants to renegotiate the terms of its international bailout, which has imposed years of punishing austerity on the country. The current agreement expires in late February. Speculation that Greece could be granted extra time to hold new negotiations lifted markets Tuesday.
“At the moment, it seems European leaders and Greece are willing to meet each other in the middle and this has comforted investors’ concerns after the aggressive tone by Greek Prime Minister Tsipras over the weekend,” Stan Shamu, market strategist at IG, said in a commentary.
One source of weakness in U.S. markets was energy stocks.
The price of oil fell back below $50 a barrel after the Energy Department reported that U.S. crude inventories rose by 4.9 million barrels last week to their highest level for this time of year “in at least the last 80 years.”
Benchmark U.S. crude fell $1.18 to close at $48.84 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, fell $1.77 to close at $54.66 in London.
Transocean (RIG), one of the world’s largest drilling rig companies, fell 4 percent while Pioneer Natural Resources (PXD), another major oil exploration company, fell 4 percent as well. Both were the biggest decliners in the SP 500.
In other energy commodities, wholesale gasoline fell 0.9 cent to close at $1.543 a gallon. Heating oil fell 1.9 cents to close at $1.814 a gallon. Natural gas rose 12 cents to close at $2.797 per 1,000 cubic feet.
U.S. government bond prices were little changed. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note was flat at 2 percent.
Gold fell $12.60 to $1,219.60 an ounce, silver fell 11 cents to $16.76 an ounce and copper lost a penny to $2.54 a pound.
What to watch Thursday:
- At 8:30 a.m. Eastern time, the Commerce Department releases retail sales data for January, and the Labor Department releases weekly jobless claims.
- At 10 a.m., the Commerce Department releases business inventories for December, and Freddie Mac releases weekly mortgage rates, 10 a.m.
These selected companies are scheduled to release quarterly financial results:
- Acorda Therapeutics (ACOR)
- Advance Auto Parts (AAP)
- American International Group (AIG)
- Apache (APA)
- Avon Products (AVP)
- BorgWarner (BWA)
- Bunge (BG)
- CBS (CBS)
- Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE)
- Columbia Sportswear (COLM)
- ComScore (SCOR)
- Credit Suisse Group (CS)
- Diebold (DBD)
- Dr Pepper Snapple Group (DPS)
- GNC Holdings (GNC)
- Groupon (GRPN)
- Hospira (HSP)
- Jarden (JAH)
- Kellogg Co. (K)
- King Digital Entertainment (KING)
- Kraft Foods (KRFT)
- Manulife Financial (MFC)
- McGraw Hill Financial (MHFI)
- Nielsen (NLSN)
- Pinnacle Entertainment (PNK)
- Regal Entertainment (RGC)
- Republic Services (RSG)
- Rio Tinto (RIO)
- Scripps Networks Interactive (SNI)
- Shire (SHPG)
- Shutterfly (SFLY)
- Shutterstock (SSTK)
- Sonoco Products (SON)
- Telus (TU)
- Time Inc. (TIME)
- Whitewave Foods (WWAV)
- Zynga (ZNGA)
You may think you’re saving money by using that ancient washing machine or fridge from the ’70s, but when it comes to major appliances, sometimes using it until it gives out isn’t the best strategy.
Appliances that aren’t energy efficient can run up your utility bills and cost you more than you’re saving. More than one-third of refrigerators in America are more 10 years old, and these collectively cost consumers an extra $4.7 billion in energy costs, according to the Department of Energy. (Yes, “billion” with a “b.”) While it may seem counterintuitive to spring for something new when the old model is still “works,” investing in an Energy Star-rated appliance save you an estimated $35 to $300 over its lifetime as compared to your old model.
Bundle up in winter and keep the furnace down a notch or two. Use a ceiling or standing fan in the summer and save the air conditioner as a last resort. Get a programmable thermostat and set it to adjust the temperature when you’re away from home. You can probably also drop your water heater a degree or two without really noticing it.
You can save as much as 1 percent from your heating bill for each degree you drop the thermostat, if the reduction lasts eight hours per day (while you’re at work or asleep), according to energy.gov. That means a 10- to 15-degree drop in temperature could create significant savings. In addition, make sure you’re not losing excess heat by covering drafts, adding weatherstripping or insulation, and installing heavy thermal curtains.
A few dollars on prevention can save you hundreds –- if not thousands –- on costly cures. Clean the lint trap in your dryer, change the filter in your furnace and dust out those little vents under the fridge. Have your heating ducts and gutters cleaned annually. These tasks can be annoying and time-consuming, but they can save you from some costly repairs or replacements down the road.
As a broad rule of thumb, save 1 percent of your home’s value towards maintenance and repair costs each year. For every $100,000 of home, in other words, set aside $1,000 annually. That may sound like a lot, but once you consider the cost of replacing the carpets and appliances every decade, and the windows, siding and roof every 25 years, you can see how quickly costs add up. And the more you can offset the need to conduct major repairs (e.g. patching that small roof leak before rot and mold develops), the more you can lower your ultimate bills.