After moving sharply lower over the course of the previous session, stocks moved in opposite directions during trading on Wednesday. The major averages subsequently turned in a mixed performance on the day, with the tech-heavy Nasdaq closing in the red.
The Nasdaq climbed well off its worst levels of the day but still ended the session down 13.09 points or 0.3 percent at 4,067.67. Meanwhile, the Dow jumped 117.52 points or 0.7 percent to 16,518.54 and the S&P 500 climbed 10.49 points or 0.6 percent to 1,878.21.
Weakness among tech stocks helped to keep the Nasdaq in negative territory, with electronic storage and internet stocks turning in some of the worst performances.
Groupon (GRPN) posted a particularly steep loss on the day, with the daily deal website plunging by 20.7 percent after forecasting second quarter earnings below analyst estimates.
On the other hand, some buying interest was generated by claims by Russian President Vladimir Putin that all Russian troops deployed along the border with Ukraine have been withdrawn.
Putin also urged pro-Russian separatists in southeastern Ukraine to postpone a May 11th referendum on autonomy, stressing that it was essential for starting a national dialogue aimed at ending the crisis.
Traders also kept an eye on Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen's testimony before the Joint Economic Committee of Congress, although she did not provide much new information.
In prepared remarks, Yellen stated that a high degree of monetary accommodation remains warranted in light of the considerable degree of slack that remains in labor markets and the continuation of inflation below the Fed's 2 percent objective.
She also reiterated that the Fed remains committed to policies designed to restore labor market conditions and inflation to levels that its judges to be consistent with its dual mandate.
Peter Boockvar, managing director at the Lindsey Group, said, "Yellen's testimony didn't reveal anything new. Her economic outlook pretty much mimicked what the FOMC statement said last week."
On the economic front, the Labor Department released a report before the start of trading showing that U.S. labor productivity fell by more than anticipated in the first quarter of 2014.
As mentioned above, electronic storage stocks saw substantial weakness on the day, dragging the NYSE Arca Disk Drive Index down by 5 percent. With the loss, the index ended the session at a six-month closing low.
Within the storage sector, shares of Datalink (DTLK) plummeted by 26.2 percent after the company reported weaker than expected first quarter results and provided disappointing guidance.
Gold stocks also moved sharply lower over the course of the session, dragging the NYSE Arca Gold Bugs Index down by 2.2 percent. The weakness in the sector came as gold for June delivery tumbled $19.70 to $1,288.90 an ounce.
While the steep drop by shares of Groupon also weighed on the internet sector, utilities stocks showed a strong move to the upside on the day. The Dow Jones Utilities Average advanced by 1.6 percent, climbing back toward the record closing high set last Thursday.
Commercial real estate, natural gas, and financial stocks also saw notable strength, while most of the other major sectors showed more modest moves.
In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region saw notable weakness during trading on Wednesday. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index plummeted by 2.9 percent following an extended weekend, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index fell by 1.1 percent.
Meanwhile, the major European markets turned in a mixed performance on the day. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index closed just below the unchanged line, the French CAC 40 Index and the German DAX Index rose by 0.4 percent and 0.6 percent, respectively.
In the bond market, treasuries showed a lack of direction throughout the session before closing roughly flat. Subsequently, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, edged down by less than a basis point to 2.59 percent.
A Labor Department report on weekly jobless claims may attract some attention on Thursday along with Yellen's second day of testimony on Capitol Hill.
On the earnings front, Priceline (PCLN), Dish Network (DISH), Wendy's (WEN), Sony (SNE), and Cablevision (CVC) are among the companies due to report their quarterly results before the start of trading on Thursday.
by RTT Staff Writer
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