Stocks closed higher for a third consecutive day as gains in oil futures supported the energy sector, and a mixed Beige Book dimmed expectations for a March rate hike. Equities straddled the flatline for most of the day but pushed into positive territory into the final hours of trade, leaving the Dow Jones Industrial Average at an 8-week high.
Trading kicked off with an above-consensus gain in ADP private payrolls, raising the risk for a strong jobs report on Friday. Stocks continued to decline at the open, but bottomed out and recovered on the back of a rebound in oil and technical support in the S&P 500 at 1964. Adding momentum to the bounce of the lows were remarks from John Williams during a speech in Los Angeles in which the non-voting member of the Fed claimed that the U.S. economy still requires "some accommodation" but there is no risk of a U.S. recession despite economic weakness in Europe and Asia.
Of the ten sectors in the S&P 500, the materials sector was the laggard due to a significant decline in shares of Monsanto ( MON ) after the company lowered its earnings guidance. Energy shares outperformed, following by solid gains in telecom and financial stocks.
Thursday's economic data includes the weekly unemployment claims data, Q4 non-farm productivity and unit labor costs, January factory orders, the ISM non-manufacturing index and PMI services sector index for February.
Here's where the markets stood at the close:
Dow Jones Industrial Index was up 34.24 points (+0.20%)
S&P 500 was up 8.10 points (+0.41%)
Nasdaq Composite Index was up 13.83 points (+0.29%)
FTSE 100 was down 0.09%
Nikkei 225 was up 4.11%
Hang Seng Index was up 3.07%
Shanghai China Composite Index was up 4.26%
(+) CKP (+29.44%) Agreed to be acquired by CCL Industries for $10.15 per share
(+) DAR (+25.93%) Reported Q4 EPS of $0.54 on $809.7 million in revenue
(+) CHK (+23.55%) Shares spike following news of founder, former CEO's death
(+) X (+23.50%) U.S. imposes 266% steel anti-dumping penalty on China
(+) EVDY (+19.10%) Reported better-than-expected Q4 results
(+) JMI (+18.12%) To be acquired by Armour Residential ( ARR ) for approximately $84.7 million
(-) GBSN (-14.65%) Swings to a loss in Q4 despite increase in revenue
(-) BGFV (-10.42%) Beat Q4 EPS and sales estimates but issued weak Q1 guidance
(-) MON (-7.77%) Lowered its FY profit guidance
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