The gains were broad-based. Among the big blue chip winners: UnitedHealth (UNH) up 3 percent, IBM (IBM) up 2 and Boeing (BA) up 1.5 percent on reports that it landed a $4 billion order from Indian airline SpiceJet. Also, Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) gained 2 percent as RBC raised its rating on the stock.
Three of the biggest winners were small drug companies. A J&J partner, Pharmacyclics (PCYC), jumped 20 percent on positive results from tests on a blood cancer drug.
Epizyme (EPZM) soared 81 percent after it reported that its leukemia drug had achieved key milestones, which triggered a big payment from two larger partners.
And Neurocrine Biosciences (NBIX) rallied 87 percent on positive results for its drug to treat involuntary facial spasms.
Two companies gained after making strategic acquisitions. Palo Alto Networks (PANW) rose 3.5 percent. It bought start-up Morta Security. And Convergys (CVG) gained 7 percent after buying Stream Global.
But some big name retail stocks lost ground, possibly because the extreme cold is keeping shoppers away. Macy's (M) fell 2 percent, JCPenney (JCP) lost 5.5 percent, Sears (SHLD) fell 2 percent and Michael Kors (KORS) dropped 4 percent.
And two of last year's biggest winners gave up some of those gains. Best Buy (BBY) fell 2.5 percent and Netflix (NFLX) lost 5.5 percent. It was downgraded by Morgan Stanley, which cited competitive pressures.
But online travel companies are flying high. Expedia (EXPE) rose 3 percent, Priceline (PCLN) added 2 percent and TripAdvisor (TRIP) gained nearly 6 percent.
Elsewhere, the drive-in restaurant chain Sonic (SONC) gained 4.5 percent ahead of its earnings report.
Workday (WDAY), which makes cloud applications for businesses, rose 4 percent on a brokerage upgrade.
But software maker Cyan (CYAN) tumbled 30 percent after lowering its fourth-quarter revenue forecast.
What to Watch Wednesday:
- Payroll processor ADP releases private-sector employment figures for December at 8:15 a.m. Eastern time.
- The Federal Reserve releases minutes from December interest-rate meeting at 2 p.m., followed by consumer credit data for November at 3 p.m.