By Stephen Culp
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Technology shares led the S&P 500 marginally higher on Wednesday, as a healthy forecast from IBM helped mitigate worries over the developing coronavirus outbreak.
The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq closed barely in the black after approaching, then backing down from record highs the day after virus fears prompted a sell-off. The Dow closed nominally lower.
“The market’s had a big run, that’s made some investors a bit skittish, cautious,” said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment strategist at Inverness Counsel in New York. “So we’re not seeing a really strong day.”
“Earnings season is always volatile and unpredictable,” Ghriskey added. “Every new earnings report that gets released is another piece of the puzzle.”
Optimism was boosted by International Business Machines
Chipmakers rose following a strong forecast from Dutch semiconductor equipment maker ASML Holding NV
The Philadelphia SE Semiconductor index <.SOX> gained 0.8%.
Global precautions have been put in place to curb a viral outbreak from China, which has now claimed 17 lives. The World Health Organization (WHO) has convened to determine whether the situation was a global health emergency.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average <.DJI> fell 9.63 points, or 0.03%, to 29,186.41, the S&P 500 <.SPX> gained 0.98 points, or 0.03%, to 3,321.77 and the Nasdaq Composite <.IXIC> added 12.96 points, or 0.14%, to 9,383.77.
Of the 11 major sectors in the S&P 500, six ended the session in positive territory. Tech <.SPLRCT> was up the most, while energy <.SPNY> was the biggest laggard.
Fourth-quarter earnings season is well under way, with 58 companies in the S&P 500 having reported, 67.2% of which have beaten analyst expectations, according to Refinitiv data.
Analysts now expect fourth-quarter earnings to have contracted by 0.8% year-on-year.
Streaming pioneer Netflix Inc
Shares of Boeing Co
On the economic front, sales of existing homes in December blew past economist estimates to reach a near two-year high.
Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.10-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.03-to-1 ratio favored decliners.
The S&P 500 posted 109 new 52-week highs and two new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 164 new highs and 29 new lows.
Volume on U.S. exchanges was 7.20 billion shares, compared with the 6.80 billion-share average over the last 20 trading days.
(Reporting by Stephen Culp; editing by Jonathan Oatis)