The S&P 500 edged up to another record high Wednesday, but the market remained locked in a narrow trading range. The major averages have been remarkably steady over the past two weeks, even though that could change with the release Friday of the government's monthly unemployment report.
ADP said Wednesday that private sector hiring slowed a bit in May from April. But the Federal Reserve's Beige Book report showed growth picking up across the country. The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) rose 15 points, the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) added 3, and the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) gained 17 points.
Most big name tech and Internet stocks moved higher. Apple (AAPL) rose 1½ percent, while Facebook (FB) and Netflix (NFLX) both gained about 1 percent.
But Pandora (P) shareholders are singing the blues. The music streaming company's stock edged lower as federal investigators look at the royalty rates the company pays to songwriters. Higher rates could cut into profits. Pandora shares are still up 70 percent from a year ago, but well off their highs from back in March.
Federal action helped light a fire under solar stocks. The Commerce Department proposed new import duties on solar panels made in China. SunPower (SPWR) rose 7 percent, SunEdison (SUNE) rose 6 and First Solar (FSLR) gained 4 percent.
And General Motors (GM) jumped another 3½ percent one day ahead of the release of an independent report on the fiasco over the company's faulty ignition switches. It's expected to cast a harsh light on the GM, but say that CEO Mary Barra did not know the extent of the problem prior to taking the top job.
Elsewhere, a couple of firms got a boost from brokerage upgrades. Newell Rubbermaid (NWL) rose 4½ percent as Morgan Stanley upped its rating to "overweight."
Under Armour (UA) gained 5 percent as Jefferies raised its rating to "buy."
But Coach (COH) fell 2½ percent on a Sterne Agee downgrade to "neutral." Coach shares have lost a third of their value over the past year.
Finally, Walgreen (WAG) rose 4 percent as a key measure of sales topped expectations.
What to Watch Thursday:
- The Labor Department reports weekly applications for unemployment benefits at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time.
- General Motors (GM) is scheduled to release its investigation into the delayed recall of small cars with defective ignition switches, blamed for at least 13 deaths, at 9 a.m.
- Freddie Mac reports weekly mortgage rates at 10 a.m.
- Cooper Cos. (COO)
- Diamond Foods (DMND)
- J.M. Smucker (SJM)
- Men's Wearhouse (MW)
- Navistar International (NAV)
- Vail Resorts (MTN)
- Vera Bradley (VRA)
- Verifone Systems (PAY)