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U.S. stocks mostly edged higher on Wednesday, with a rally in energy shares helping to erase an early market declines.
While the Nasdaq rose and the S&P 500 turned positive after opening lower, the Dow remained in modestly negative territory, putting the blue-chip indicator on track for its ninth decline out of the past 10 sessions.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, -0.25% fell 35 points, or 0.1%, to 20,667. The Dow has been in a slump of late, struggling to hold on to intraday gains. Although it popped 0.7% on Tuesday, lifted by a strong read on consumer confidence, it remains about 2% below an all-time high reached March 1. In the recent move lower, most of the Dow’s daily declines were smaller than 0.1%.
Energy XLE, +1.22% was the day’s biggest gainer, with the sector up 1.1% following bigger-than-expected declines in gasoline and distillate stockpiles in the latest week, a positive sign for demand. Chesapeake Energy Corp. CHK, +7.14% rose 6.2% while Hess Corp. HES, +4.68% jumped 4.7%.
The advance in late-morning trade was broad, with eight of the S&P 500’s 11 primary sectors in the green. That represented a sharp turnaround from the market open, when 10 of the 11 initially traded lower. Utilities XLU, -0.16% were the weakest group, falling 0.6%. Financials, which have been big gainers in recent months, fell 0.2%.
“Today is just a pause. Valuations are a bit stretched, but that’s nothing unusual. Meanwhile, economic data remains strong and markets are optimistic that we’ll see progress on tax reform out of Washington,” said Randy Frederick, vice president of trading and derivatives for Charles Schwab.
Traders are keeping an eye out for speeches from Federal Reserve members, as well as tracking the U.K.’s invocation of Article 50, which officially starts that country’s withdrawal from the European Union.
“This has never happened before, so no one knows how it will play out,” Frederick said. “It’s an important event, but I’m not sure it’s a negative event, at least as far as the market goes.”
Economic news and Fed speakers: Chicago Fed President Charles Evans said the fundamentals of the economy were good, and called for another one or two interest-rate increases in 2017. The Fed raised rates at its March meeting, and most investors expect a total of three this year.
Boston Fed President Rosengren is slated to deliver a speech on the economic outlook to the Boston Economic Club at 11:30 a.m. Eastern, and then be interviewed by Bloomberg TV and radio at 1:45 p.m. Eastern.
San Francisco Fed President John Williams is on tap to talk about the U.S. economy at the Forecasters Club of New York at noon Eastern.
In the latest economic data, pending-home sales rose 5.5% in February, with their rising to their highest level in nearly a year.
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As e-banking technology has improved, the number of bank branches is expected to fall by a third in the next decade. But rather than get rid of branches altogether, banks are trying to give them makeovers to get customers to still come in.
Other markets: Oil futures CLK7, +1.92% traded 1.5% higher, while European stocks SXXP, +0.33% were little changed. Asian markets closed mostly with gains. Gold futures GCJ7, -0.33% dipped, and a key dollar index DXY, +0.41% rose 0.3%. The British pound GBPUSD, -0.3293% was dropping on Brexit trigger day.
Check out: MarketWatch’s Economic Calendar