Wall St closes slightly up; investors look to Yellen
US stocks ended with modest gains today as investors digested recent market gains and looked ahead to new Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen's first testimony before lawmakers.
The Nasdaq was boosted by strength in large-cap tech and pharma names, but most market participants took a wait-and-see attitude ahead of the testimony, looking for confirmation that the Fed would not change its schedule for ending its support for the economy.
The Dow Jones industrial average was up 7.71 points, or 0.05 percent, at 15,801.79. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 2.82 points, or 0.16 percent, at 1,799.84. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 22.31 points, or 0.54 percent, at 4,148.17.
European stocks steadied in thin trade, taking a breather after a two-session bounce, as investors awaited clarification on the pace at which the US Federal Reserve plans to further trim stimulus.
Spanish blue-chips Banco Santander, BBVA and Telefonica - which derive about half of their revenues from Latin America - took another beating, down 1.2-1.9 percent. Traders cited worries over local currencies such as the Brazilian real, which dropped 0.8 percent on Monday.
"It's better to stay away from stocks with exposure to emerging markets, where trouble may just be starting," said Riccardo Designori, market analyst at Brown Editore in Milan.
The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares ended 0.1 percent higher, at 1,301.09 points, following a 2.2 percent rally in two sessions. Trading volumes were thin, representing about only 82 percent of the index's 90-day daily average volumes.
The euro zone's blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index ended 0.2 percent lower, at 3,032.53 points, after failing to break above a key resistance level at 3,047.84 points representing its 50-day moving average, sending a bearish technical signal.
Japan's Nikkei share average rose to a one-week high as a softer yen underpinned sentiment, with index-heavyweight stocks as SoftBank Corp leading the gains.
The Nikkei ended 1.8 percent higher at 14,718.34 points, its highest close since Jan. 31 and moving away from a four-month low of 13,995.86 hit last week.