A surprise jump in the Conference Board's monthly report on consumer confidence helped stocks bounce back after two straight days of selling.
The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) rose 91 points, while the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) and the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) both gained about 8 points.
Some of the technology stocks that were hard hit on Monday steadied today. Facebook (FB) rose 1 percent. But some of the so-called momentum plays such as Netflix (NFLX) and Priceline (PCLN) continued to lose ground.
Biotech and health tech stocks also steadied after several down days. A closely followed biotech ETF edged higher. Celgene (CELG) and Gilead (GILD) gained ground, but Intercept Pharma (ICPT) fell 3.5 percent and Tesaro Pharma (TSRO) lost 4.5 percent.
Alternative energy stocks powered ahead. Plug Power (PLUG) soared 49 percent after MarketWatch reported the company expects to announce a big contract with a major automaker. Ballard Power (BLDP) rallied 31 percent and Fuelcell Energy (FCEL) jumped 20 percent.
But some retailers, especially those aimed at teens and young adults, were on the defensive. Aeropostale (ARO) slid 6.5 percent on worries about its earnings. The stock has lost about 60 percent over the past year. Wet Seal (WTSL) slid 12 percent and the women's apparel retailer Cache (CACH) fell 13 percent as its loss widened.
We're between earnings seasons, except for these companies:
The restaurant chain Sonic (SONC) boomed. It gained 10 percent on better than expected earnings.
The spice maker McCormick (MCK) rose 5.5 percent. It too beat expectations.
But Carnival Cruise (CCL) fell 5 percent. It issued a disappointing outlook. It's booking more rooms, but at lower prices as it tries to repair its reputation after some disastrous cruise publicity last year.
And G-III Apparel (GIII) also issued a weak outlook, sending the stock down nearly 5 percent. The company makes store brand clothes for many leading department stores.
What to Watch Wednesday:
- The Mortgage Bankers Association releases weekly mortgage applications at 7 a.m. Eastern time.
- The Commerce Department releases durable goods for February at 8:30 a.m.
- Markit releases its March survey of purchasing managers in the service sector at 9:45 a.m.