After seeing some initial weakness, stocks showed a substantial turnaround over the course of the trading day on Wednesday, ending the day sharply higher. Investors shrugged off some negative news and turned their focus to better-than-expected reports on pending home sales, construction spending, and manufacturing activity.
The initial downward move came on the heels of the release of a report from ADP showing that non-farm private employment fell by a bigger than expected 742,000 jobs following a revised decrease of 706,000 jobs in February.
Not long after the open, however, the National Association of Realtors said its index of pending home sales rose 2.1 percent to 82.1 in February from a reading of 80.4 in January. The increase by the index came as a surprise to economists, who had expected the reading to come in unchanged.
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said, Pending home sales have a way to go for there to be a meaningful increase, but recent increases in shopping activity are hopeful indicators that we'll see additional sales gains.
The Commerce Department also released its monthly report on construction spending for February, showing that spending fell 0.9 percent. Analysts had expected spending to fall 1.9 percent following a 3.5 percent decline in the previous month.
Additionally, the ISM Manufacturing index edged up to 36.3 in March from 35.8 in February, although a reading below 50 still indicates a contraction in the sector. Economists had been expecting the index to come in at 36.0.
On the corporate front, the big three auto-makers continued to disappoint investors during Wednesday's session as all three posted massive declines in monthly sales.
General Motors (GM) reported that total vehicle sales fell almost 45 percent in March to 156,380 units. Ford (F) also suffered a massive decline, with March sales plummeting about 41 percent year-over-year.
Meanwhile, private auto giant Chrysler performed the best out of the big three, showing a decline in sales of less than 40 percent.
In other news, traders kept an eye on London throughout the session, waiting for news from the G20 summit of global leaders. The leaders will discuss efforts to deal with the weakness in the global economy.
Thousands of protestors have taken to the London streets, expressing their anger over the state of the economy.
The major averages continue to perform well in late day trading, ending the session near their best levels of the day. The Dow closed up 152.68 points or 2 percent at 7,761.60, the Nasdaq closed up 23.01 points or 1.5 percent at 1,551.60 and the S&P 500 closed up 13.21 points or 1.7 percent at 811.08.
Most of the major sectors showed notable turnarounds along with the broader markets, with traders using the initial weakness as another buying opportunity.
At the close of the session some of the biggest gains were being shown by stocks in the gold sector. The advances came as investors reacted to an increase in the price of the precious metal, which ended the session up $2.70 at $927.70 an ounce.
By the market close, the Amex Gold Bugs Index had risen 5.7 percent, ending Wednesday's session at its highest closing level in over six months.
Steel, telecom, and banking stocks also posted notable gains on the day. The Amex Steel Index closed 5.2 percent higher, while the Amex North American Telecommunications Index and the Kbw Bank Index ended the session with gains of 4.3 percent and 3.6 percent, respectively.
Networking, computer hardware, and airline stocks were also among those contributing to the strong upward move by the broader markets.
At the other end of the spectrum, biotechnology stocks were some of the only noteworthy losers of the session. Some healthcare and real estate stocks also posted modest losses on the day.
The considerable advance shown by the Dow came as the vast majority of the components of the blue chip index moved higher on the day.
While most of the big gainers among the blue chip stocks came out of the financial sector, one of the best performances was shown by chemical company DuPont (DD), which ended the session 5 percent higher.
The advance lifted shares of DuPont to a level that challenges a recent month-and-a-half closing high, set in late March.
In the financial sector, American Express (AXP), Citigroup (C), and JP Morgan (JPM) all posted substantial gains. American Express rose 7.4 percent, while Citigroup and JP Morgan both saw advances of 5.9 percent.
At the other end of the spectrum, General Motors (GM) posted one of the only losses of the Dow components. The stock ended the session down 0.5 percent after the company announced the drop in its March sales. Boeing (BA) was the only other Dow component to close lower.
In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region closed mostly higher on Wednesday, with Japan's Nikkei 225 Index advancing by 3 percent. However, the Australian and Hong Kong markets bucked the uptrend.
The major European markets also ended the day notably higher. The French CAC 40 Index and the German DAX Index ended the session up 1.2 percent and 1.1 percent, respectively, while the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index posted a gain of 0.8 percent.
In the bond market, treasuries ended the session off their intraday highs, but above the unchanged line. Subsequently, the yield on the benchmark 10-year note ended the session down 2.7 basis points at 2.658 percent.
Thursday is another busy day on the economic front. President Obama is in Europe for the first time as president for the G20 meeting today in London.
On the data front, initial jobless claims numbers are expected at 8:30 am ET and factory goods orders data will be released at 10 am ET.
Before the bell, Monsanto (MON) and Rite Aid (RAD) are among the companies slated to report their quarterly results.
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