New York: US stocks rose on Wednesday with activity dominated by money managers buying recent winners, including energy and small-caps, as the quarter nears its end.
But trading volume remained weak and the S&P 500 failed to hold above 1,330, a level where selling has been clustered in the past month.
“A lot of what you’re seeing for the entire week is everybody wanting to be either in or out of whatever they want to show their clients for quarter-end,” said Neal Dietz, managing director at Dietz & Lynch Capital in Newburyport, Massachusetts.
The CBOE Volatility Index or VIX, Wall Street’s favorite gauge of investor fear, dropped 2.5% to close at 17.71, its lowest level since 18 February.
Among the S&P 500’s biggest gainers on Wednesday were exploration company Cabot Oil & Gas Corp, up 5.3% at $53.39. It has risen more than 41% this quarter. Chesapeake Energy Corp rose 3.1% to $34.33; it is up 32.5% this quarter.
Small-caps, which have outdone large-caps in the first quarter, rose sharply, with the Russell 2000 index up 1.2% at 839.68, its highest closing level since October 2007. The Russell 2000 is up 7.15 % for the quarter.
The S&P 500 is up 5.6% so far this year.
Unaltered expectations for a healthy number on Friday’s labor market data, following a reassuring figure on private payrolls, kept sentiment up.
About 6.9 billion shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange, NYSE Amex and Nasdaq, below last year’s estimated daily average of 8.47 billion.
The Dow Jones industrial average added 71.60 points, or 0.58%, to 12,350.61. The Standard & Poor’s 500 rose 8.82 points, or 0.67%, to 1,328.26. The Nasdaq Composite gained 19.90 points, or 0.72%, to 2,776.79.
In the latest deal news, Canadian drugmaker Valeant Pharmaceuticals International made an unsolicited bid to buy Cephalon Inc for $5.7 billion, driving Cephalon’s stock up 28.4% to $75.44 while Valeant’s US-listed shares shot up 12.8% to $50.08.
The deal pushed the NYSEArca biotech index up 2.9%.
The US labor market showed further recovery in March as private-sector employers added jobs while planned layoffs fell, according to separate reports on Wednesday.
The ADP report on private-sector jobs, which may not be a dependable indicator of the government’s broader jobs report due on Friday, showed 201,000 jobs being created. That kept expectations intact for the Labor Department’s report.
Advancing stocks outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by 2,191 to 811, while on the Nasdaq, more than two stocks rose for every one that fell.