Technology companies and banks led U.S. stock indexes modestly higher in late-afternoon trading Thursday, extending gains from the day before. Big retail chains and other consumer-focused stocks were among the gainers. Investors were making moves ahead of the next corporate earnings reporting season, which ramps up Friday.
KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 4 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,447 as of 3:15 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 20 points, or 0.1 percent, to 21,552. The Nasdaq composite added 10 points, or 0.2 percent, to 6,271. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks dipped less than 1 point to 1,423.
EARNINGS AHEAD: Investors were also looking ahead to Friday, when Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and other big banks kick off the second-quarter reporting season. The market expects earnings per share growth of about 7 percent from companies in the S&P 500.
"Markets are really biding their time until we get into tomorrow's more robust earnings releases," said Eric Wiegand, senior portfolio manager for Private Wealth Management at U.S. Bank.
FED TALK: Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen testified for a second day before Congress. She spoke about the dual risks of inflation: prices rising too slowly and prices accelerating too quickly. Her comments appeared to be an effort to modify the impact of her comments before a House committee on Wednesday.
The House remarks were seen as signaling that the Fed might slow the pace of rate hikes if inflation does keep falling below the Fed's 2 percent target. Those remarks assuaged concerns among some traders that the Fed was raising interest rates too quickly in the face of stalling inflation and sluggish U.S. economic growth, setting off a broad market rally.
TECH SURGE: Technology companies were up the most. EBay gained 48 cents, or 1.3 percent, to $36.51. NetApp rose $1.21, or 3 percent, to $41.38.
RETAIL RALLY: Several retail chains were notching gains. Macy's rose 88 cents, or 4.2 percent, to $22.12. Gap added $1.24, or 5.7 percent, to $22.81. Target climbed 4.5 percent after it raised its second-quarter forecasts and said sales and customer traffic grew. The stock gained $2.27 to $53.14.
FINANCIALS CLIMB: Banks and other financials stocks rose. Morgan Stanley added 50 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $45.46. T. Rowe Price Group added $3.56, or 4.7 percent, to $79.14.
BIG GAINER: NRG Energy climbed 5.8 percent a day after the company disclosed plans to raise up to $4 billion through asset sales in order to lower its debt. The stock climbed $1.23 to $22.32.
TURBULENT QUARTER: Delta Air Lines was down 1.7 percent after the company reported a smaller profit and less revenue than analysts expected. The stock shed 95 cents to $54.54.
BONDS: Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.35 percent from 2.33 percent late Wednesday.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude gained 59 cents, or 1.3 percent, to settle at $46.08 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price international oils, added 68 cents, or 1.4 percent, to close at $48.42 per barrel in London. Wholesale gasoline inched up less than 1 cent to $1.53 a gallon. Heating oil rose 2 cents to $1.49 a gallon. Natural gas fell 2 cents to $2.96 per 1,000 cubic feet.
METALS: Gold fell $1.80 to $1,217.30 an ounce. Silver slid 20 cents to $15.69 an ounce. Copper lost 2 cents to $2.66 a pound.
CURRENCIES: The dollar fell to 113.24 yen from 113.25 yen late Wednesday. The euro weakened to $1.1404 from $1.1416.
MARKETS OVERSEAS: In Europe, Germany's DAX rose 0.1 percent, while the CAC 40 in France gained 0.3 percent. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was flat. In Asia, Hong Kong's Hang Seng index jumped 1.2 percent after a report showed that Chinese trade growth accelerated for a second month in June. Japan's Nikkei 225 stock index was flat. South Korea's Kospi gained 0.7 percent.