U.S. stocks rise as Britons vote on EU membership

NEW YORK - U.S. stocks are rising Thursday as investors grow more optimistic that Britons will vote to stay in the European Union. Investors are buying stocks and selling bonds, sending banks higher. Energy companies are up with the price of oil.

The Dow Jones industrial average jumped 183 points, or 1 percent, to 17,963 as of 11:54 a.m. ET. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 22 points, also 1 percent, to 2,107. The Nasdaq composite gained 59 points, or 1.2 percent, to 4,892. Utility stocks, which are popular when investors are fearful, lagged the rest of the market.

Investors are awaiting the outcome of the referendum on Britain's membership in the EU. Over the last few days stocks have gradually moved higher as investors grew more confident Britain won't leave the union. Before that, though, the markets slumped as investors worried that a "leave" vote would disrupt the economies of Britain and Europe.

Bond prices fell, sending the yield on the 10-year Treasury note up to 1.73 percent from 1.69 percent a day earlier. Higher bond yields mean higher interest rates, which allow banks to make money on lending. Citigroup rose $1.41, or 3.3 percent, to $44.09 and Bank of America gained 35 cents, or 2.5 percent, to $13.96.

The British pound rose to $1.4829 from $1.14691, its highest level of the year. The pound has gotten stronger as investors grew more confident Britain will stay in the EU. The dollar rose to 105.74 yen from 104.47 yen. The euro rose to $1.1379 from $1.1307.

Benchmark U.S. crude added 57 cents, or 1.2 percent, to $49.70 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the benchmark for international oil prices, rose 59 cents, or 1.2 percent, to $50.47 a barrel in London. Among energy stocks, Chevron picked up $1.26, or 1.2 percent, to $103.55 and Valero Energy rose 99 cents, or 1.9 percent, to $53.80.

Macy's, the largest U.S. department store, said CEO Terry Lundgren will step down early next year after about 13 years in charge. He will remain chairman of the company, and president Jeff Gennette will become CEO. Macy's rose $1.24, or 3.8 percent, to $34.05.

Fertilizer maker Mosaic climbed $1.71, or 6.4 percent, to $28.45 and copper miner Freeport-McMoran added 35 cents, or 3.1 percent, to $11.85. Paint and coatings maker PPG Industries rose $2.34, or 2.2 percent, to $110.15.

Software maker Red Hat fell $3.29, or 4.1 percent, to $76.46 after it posted mixed quarterly results and a disappointing outlook. The company also said it will buy software maker 3scale, but didn't disclose terms.

Book seller Barnes & Noble reported stronger-than-expected sales and its stock jumped 69 cents, or 6.6 percent, to $11.13.

Applications for unemployment benefits fell last week, more evidence employers are keeping workers and may be hiring at a faster pace.

France's CAC 40 rose 1.7 percent and Germany's DAX gained 1.5 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 was up 0.8 percent. Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 gained 1.1 percent, Hong Kong's Hang Seng inched up 0.4 percent and South Korea's Kospi fell 0.3 percent.