December 19, 2014
Wall Street rises as small-caps rally; HP shares off late
US stocks ended higher for the second straight session, led by small-cap stocks, while the Nasdaq climbed on a rally in biotech shares.
The surge in biotech stocks extended the recent trend of volatile trading. Small-caps and the so-called momentum names in the Internet and biotech spaces have recently echoed the broader market's direction, but moved in an outsized fashion, often without specific news.
Among momentum names, noted for high growth and perceptions of excessive valuation, Vertex Pharmaceuticals shares shot up 6 percent to $71.18, while Alexion Pharmaceuticals rose 2.5 percent to $160.48. The Nasdaq biotechnology index gained 1.9 percent. Shares of Salesforce.com , the world's biggest maker of online sales software, advanced 6.1 percent to $53.27.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 10.02 points or 0.06 percent, to end at 16,543.08. The S&P 500 gained 4.46 points or 0.24 percent, to 1,892.49. The Nasdaq Composite added 22.81 points or 0.55 percent, to close at 4,154.34.
The S&P 500 is about 10 points away from its record intraday high set on May 13. For the past week, the index has been caught between the high and its 50-day moving average as data left investors unsure about the pace of the economic recovery.
Hewlett-Packard Co posted a bigger-than-expected drop of 1 percent in quarterly revenue as it struggled to maintain its grip on a shrinking personal computer market while protecting profit margins. The stock reversed earlier gains to end down 2.3 percent at $31.78.
US existing home sales rose in April and the supply of properties on the market hit the highest level since August 2012, hopeful signs for the housing market's stalled recovery.
China's factory sector had its best performance in five months in May, while US factory output growth hit its fastest pace since February 2011, providing support for stocks.
In Europe, an unexpected pickup in the service industry was offset by lackluster factory activity, though it was enough to show the euro zone's fragile recovery has some traction.
European shares finished up 0.1 percent though off early highs as worries over the French economy pulled the Paris bourse lower.
The dollar index, reflecting the greenback's value against the euro, yen and four other currencies, gained 0.2 percent at 80.246, bringing its month-to-date gain to about 1 percent.
The euro was last down 0.26 percent, at $1.36, while the dollar gained 0.3 percent against the yen at 101.63 yen after hitting a 3-1/2-month low a day earlier.
US 10-year Treasury yields, which have a good correlation with the dollar/yen pair, edged up to 2.55 percent. Last week, they hit 2.473 percent, the lowest since October.
Low-rated euro zone bonds stabilized as expectations the European Central Bank will ease monetary policy overshadowed concerns about EU elections.
In commodities, gold prices rose after Wednesday's Fed minutes indicated no intention to raise interest rates soon. Spot gold was up 0.4 percent to $1,294.34 an ounce.
Brent crude oil dipped 19 cents to settle at $110.36 a barrel, while US crude fell 33 cents to settle at $103.74.