Stocks edged higher on Wednesday in the first trading session since a massive storm in the Northeast forced a two-day market closure.
Trading was expected to be volatile as exchanges dealt with pent-up demand from two untraded days. This was the first time the stock market had closed for two straight days because of weather since a major blizzard in 1888.
Among the biggest gainers of the day were Ford Motor Co, which reported strong results during the market closure, and Home Depot, which rallied as people bought supplies to repair storm damage.
Ford gained 5 percent to $10.83 as the most-traded stock on the New York Stock Exchange while Home Depot, a Dow component, added 3 percent to $61.85.
The New York Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq shuttered operations on Monday, hours before Hurricane Sandy made landfall on the U.S. eastern seaboard with devastating consequences. Transport into and around New York City remained limited on Wednesday, while wide-scale power outages meant many would be unable to work from home.
"Liquidity remains very light in equities as there are a lot of empty seats on the Street," said Dave Lutz, a Baltimore-based trader with Stifel, Nicolaus & Co. "We're also seeing some outsized moves."
The Dow Jones industrial average was up 59.10 points, or 0.45 percent, at 13,166.31. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 4.62 points, or 0.33 percent, at 1,416.56. The Nasdaq Composite Index rose 1.45 points, or less than 0.1 percent, at 2,989.4.
Industrial stocks were the strongest on the day, rising 1 percent as investors bet the group would see additional demand from rebuilding efforts after the storm. The KBW Insurance sector fell 0.1 percent.
Ford posted a third-quarter profit that trounced analysts' forecasts on Tuesday, driven by higher vehicle prices and record profit margins of 12 percent in North America. Wednesday will be the first day investors will be able to trading on the earnings.
General Motors reported earnings Wednesday that beat expectations, sending shares up 5.4 percent to $24.54.
Among the most active Nasdaq stocks, Apple Inc slumped 2 percent to $591.69. The company announced management changes during the market closure.
Walt Disney Co agreed to buy filmmaker George Lucas's Lucas film Ltd and its "Star Wars" franchise for $4.05 billion in cash and stock, a blockbuster deal that includes the surprise promise of a new film in the series in 2015. Disney, a Dow component, edged 0.2 percent lower.
Investors will be looking ahead to Friday's U.S. nonfarm payrolls report, the last before the November 6 presidential election, which is expected to show 125,000 jobs added in October, up 11,000 from the previous month.