Investing.com -- U.S. stocks were relatively flat on Wednesday,
leveling off from a massive rally on the opening session of the
month, as gains in the energy sector offset declines in materials
and consumer services.
Investors also digested solid employment figures from the ADP
Research Institute on Wednesday morning, ahead of a critical U.S.
jobs report on Friday. For the month of February, ADP said non-farm
private employment rose by 214,000, last month topping expectations
for gains of 190,000. The monthly report from the U.S. Department
of Labor is expected to show a sight increase in the Labor Force
Participation Rate and steady unemployment at 4.9%, one month after
the rate fell to its lowest level in eight years. A robust report
could compel the Federal Reserve to accelerate its pace of
tightening when it convenes for a two-day meeting on March
The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 34.24 or 0.20% to
16,899.32, extending gains from Tuesday's session when it surged
nearly 350 points to exit correction territory. The Dow ended
February as the only major index to close higher for the month,
continuing its rally from a disastrous start to the year. The
NASDAQ Composite index gained 13.82 or 0.29% to 4,7-3.42, while the
S&P 500 Composite index ticked up 8.10 or 0.41% to close at
1,986.45. For the session, eight of 10 sectors closed higher led by
strong performances from the energy and telecommunications
industries. At one point on Wednesday, telecommunications stocks
reached their highest level in 18 months.
The top performer on the Dow was Exxon Mobil Corporation
(NYSE:XOM), which gained 1.42 or 1.75% to 82.70. ExxonMobil
(NYSE:XOM) finished just ahead of IBM (NYSE:IBM), which added 1.93
or 1.44% to 136.30. IBM continues to rebound following
market-moving comments from billionaire investor Warren Buffett at
the start of the week. Buffet, the chairman of Berkshire Hathaway B
(NYSE:BRKb), told CNBC that he planned to hold onto his 8.59% stake
in the company in spite of a $2.6 billion loss at the end of 2015.
The worst performer was EI du Pont de Nemours and Company
(NYSE:DD), which lost 0.79 or 1.26% to 62.15. DuPont (NYSE:DD)
finished just below Nike Inc (NYSE:NKE), which fell 0.70 or 1.11%
to 62.22, two days after the release of a new Kevlar shoe that will
be worn by Oklahoma City Thunder star forward Kevin Durant during
the NBA Playoffs.
The biggest gainer on the NASDAQ was Micron Technology Inc
(NASDAQ:MU), which added 0.61 or 5.51% to 11.68, bolstered by heavy
short covering. Over the last 52 weeks, shares in Micron have
plunged more than 65% as the Idaho-based semiconductor has
projected a possible loss for the quarter amid expectations for
potential cost increases. The worst performer was Dollar Tree Inc
(NASDAQ:DLTR), which lost 3.26 or 3.97% to 78.77, after the
discount variety store chain offered a downbeat forward guidance
for same-store sales in 2016.
The top performer on the S&P 500 was Chesapeake Energy
Corporation (NYSE:CHK), which surged 0.64 or 23.19% to 3.40.
Chesapeake Energy (NYSE:CHK) held onto gains late in the session
after reports surfaced that former CEO Aubrey McClendon passed away
on Wednesday morning in a one-car crash outside Oklahoma City. It
came one day after McClendon was indicted by the U.S. Department of
Justice for his involvement in a bid rigging scandal related to the
leasing of oil rigs and a series of land deals. McClendon was
killed when his 2013 Chevrolet Tahoe hit a concrete embankment at a
high rate of speed causing the vehicle to immediately burst into
flames, a spokesman from the Oklahoma City Police Department
"Chesapeake Energy is deeply saddened by the news we heard
today, our thoughts and prayers are with the McClendon family," the
company told CNBC.
The worst performer was Monsanto Company (NYSE:MON), after the
world's largest corn seller lowered its second quarter guidance
amid continuing signs of weakness in the agricultural sector due to
lower crop prices. Shares in Monsanto (NYSE:MON) fell 7.19 or 7.77%
On the New York Stock Exchange, declining issues outnumbered
advancing ones by a 2,003-1,004 margin.
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