Closing Update: S&P 500, Nasdaq Eke Out Small Gains in Choppy Session; Exxon Weighs on Dow
Wall Street took a breather Wednesday following two days of extremely volatile trade, with stocks ending mixed in a choppy session after a new survey of private-sector hiring lagged Wall Street expectations.
The S&P 500 climbed to a new, intra-day high early in today's session, building on yesterday's record close, but could not sustain the advance and finished slightly lower for the day. Blue-chips were weighed down by a nearly 3% decline for Exxon-Mobil ( XOM ) after the energy giant trimmed its spending forecast for the year. But the Nasdaq Composite index eked out a small gain, supported by shares of biotechnology and networking companies.
Weather played havoc on attempts to measure U.S. economic conditions, leaving policy-makers at a loss of what's really happening around the country, the Federal Reserve said its latest Beige Book assessment issued this afternoon. The good news: Eight of the Fed's 12 member districts saw continued expansion in economic growth during the opening months of 2013, while the New York and Philadelphia regions recorded small gains, which they blamed on severe weather earlier this winter.
Employment levels were improving "gradually," according to the Beige Book, so named because of the color of its printed cover.
That improvement, however, may have been too gradual for investors looking for signs of private-sector hiring as measured by today's report by Automated Data Processing ( ADP ). The payroll-processing company said companies hired 139,000 new employees last month, trailing estimates looking for 158,000 new workers. January hiring levels also revised downward. Factory activity also declined in February, according to a pair of surveys released today.
Commodities were mixed today. Gold for April delivery rose $2.40 to $1,340.20 per ounce while May silver added 6 cents to settle at $21.27 per ounce. May copper declined a penny, finishing at $3.20 per pound. Crude oil for April delivery settled $1.88 lower at $101.45 per barrel while April natural gas fell 14 cents today to finish at $4.52 per 1 million BTU.
Here's where the U.S. markets stood at end-of-day:
Dow Jones Industrial Average down 35.51 (-0.22%) to 16,360.37
S&P 500 down 0.1 (-0.01%) to 1,873.81
Nasdaq Composite Index up 6 (+0.14%) to 4,357.97
Hang Seng Index down 0.34%
Shanghai China Composite Index down 0.89%
FTSE 100 Index down 0.71%
(+) MXWL, Climbs to 2-year high on heavy volume on speculation over a potential deal with Tesla Motors ( TSLA ), including positive comments Wednesday at Piper Jaffray.
(+) ARWR, Deutsche Bank initiates coverage with a Buy rating and a price target of $45 a share.
(+) PPHM, Presenting data from three preclinical studies highlighting its immuno-oncology and anti-viral potential of phosphatidylserine-targeting antibodies at an industry conference next week in Sante Fe, N.M.
(-) CSIQ, Q4 EPS of $0.39 miss by $0.13 per share. Revenue rises nearly 76% over year-ago levels but still comes up shy of $525.4 mln consensus. Guides Q1 revenue below Street view.
(-) XOMA, Scraps work on its Gevokizumab drug candidate following disappointing Phase II testing results in patients with erosive osteoarthritis of the hand, although it will continue Phase III testing in patients with pyoderma gangrenosum.
(-) CERE, Prices public offering of 20 million shares of its common stock at $1 apiece - a 28% discount to Tuesday's closing price.