Market Wrap: Stocks Rise on ECB News, IBM Limits Gains

Financial Markets Wall Street
Richard Drew/AP
By Rodrigo Campos

NEW YORK -- U.S. stocks edged up in a choppy Wednesday session as traders digested reports that new stimulus would be announced by the European Central Bank at its Thursday meeting, while declines in IBM limited gains.

Market participants have been looking for more aggressive measures from central banks, specifically the ECB, to combat the risk of deflation and a weakening eurozone economy.

A source told Reuters the ECB's Executive Board has proposed a program that would enable the bank to buy 50 billion euros ($58 billion) in bonds a month starting in March. ECB President Mario Draghi will speak to the media Thursday.

"The ECB rumor was very important. The market's perception was that Draghi was going to disappoint tomorrow in the magnitude" of the program, said Phil Orlando, chief equity market strategist at Federated Investors in New York.

He said that regardless of the size of the expected purchase program, there are many details to be decided in terms of the assets available for purchase and how those will affect individual members of the bloc.

"The rules of the game may not be as fortuitous as investors and Draghi might like to be able to get the most bang for the buck."

U.S. stocks would benefit from a program to support the eurozone economy because Europe is one of the United States' most important trade partners.

The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) rose 39.05 points, or 0.22 percent, to 17,554.28, the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) gained 9.57 points, or 0.47 percent, to 2,032.12 and the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) added 12.58 points, or 0.27 percent, to 4,667.42.

The S&P closed 2.8 percent below its record closing high set in late December.

S&P 500 energy shares were the day's best performers, up 1.8 percent alongside a 2.8 percent gain in the price of U.S. crude futures. The S&P 500 oil and gas exploration and production index rose 2.8 percent.

Despite the advance, crude futures remain on track to post their 15th negative week in the last 17.

IBM (IBM) shares fell 3.1 percent to $152.09 the day after reporting lower-than-expected revenues and giving a 2015 profit target that was below estimates. The stock was the biggest points decliner on the S&P 500 and weighed the most on the price-weighted Dow industrials.

The blue-chip index, however, got a boost from UnitedHealth Group (UNH), which rose 3.5 percent to $109.32 after its fourth-quarter earnings topped expectations.

Netflix (NFLX) jumped 17.3 percent to $409.28 a day after the streaming and rental video company posted earnings above expectations and said it was growing faster overseas than previously expected.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by 1,956 to 1,113, for a 1.76-to-1 ratio; on the Nasdaq, 1,586 issues fell and 1,156 advanced for a 1.37-to-1 ratio favoring decliners.

The S&P 500 posted 37 new 52-week highs and 9 new lows; the Nasdaq composite posted 41 new highs and 95 new lows.

About 6.9 billion shares traded on U.S. exchanges, below the 7.3 billion average so far this month, according to BATS Global Markets.

-With additional reporting by Lucas Iberico Lozada.

What to watch Thursday:
  • The Labor Department reports weekly jobless claims at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time.
  • The Energy Information Administration reports weekly petroleum stockpiles at 11 a.m.
These selected companies are schedule to release quarterly financial results:
  • Altera (ALTR)
  • BB&T (BBT)
  • Capitol One Financial (COF)
  • E-Trade Financial (ETFC)
  • Huntington Bancshares (HBAN)
  • Johnson Controls (JCI)
  • KeyCorp (KEY)
  • Southwest Airlines (LUV)
  • Starbucks (SBUX)
  • Travelers (TRV)
  • Union Pacific (UNP)
  • United Continental Holdings (UAL)
  • Verizon Communications (VZ)
10 Clever Ways to Save Money While Dining Out
See Gallery
Market Wrap: Stocks Rise on ECB News, IBM Limits Gains
This might sound crazy, but hear me out: If you're ravenous by the time you reach the restaurant, you'll be tempted to order more. Sheer willpower isn't enough to stop you from ordering more than you can chew. Nibble on a snack before you head out, so that you can order from the menu with a cool head.
Drinks can add a lot to your final bill, especially if they're adult libations. Stick with plain ol' tap water to avoid the cash drain (and empty calories). If you'd still like to have a drink or two before dinner, sip a cocktail at home instead. Just make sure you have a designated driver.
At many restaurants, appetizers and dessert items cost just as much as an entree, so opting to pad your meal with these extras can double or even triple your total cost. And it may be too much food, too, which can lead to a big waste or big waist. Rather than getting a whole spread, focus on ordering one main entrée and really savoring it.
Still want a little something sweet for dessert? Why not offer to spit something with others at your table? You'll each get a taste, and you can each split the bill. This works with everything from appetizers to main entrees -- if you'd like to try several different dishes, order a few for the table and share them family-style.
Many restaurants (especially large chains) serve ridiculously sized portions. A plate of pasta could feed a family of four; a sandwich with fries could make up two meals. Rather than stuffing yourself silly, plan on making several meals out of your order and take home leftovers for some "free" meals later on. To avoid being tempted to keep eating once you're full, divvy up your food when it arrives, like putting half of it on a separate plate so you know it's off-limits.
Restaurants know most people are in a rush around lunch time, and they're looking for a faster turnaround to get more customers in (and out) the door. Take advantage of the lower prices (and smaller portions) you'll find at lunch -- and you can have a meal that's just as high-quality but a bit lighter on your wallet.
Plenty of daily deals sites like Amazon LocalScoutmob and Groupon offer vouchers for local restaurants for deals like "buy one, get one free" meals, percentages off your total bill and more. Just make sure you read the fine print before you buy -- some places won't allow you to use vouchers on busy days or times or may require you purchase a certain amount to qualify. Some may be used in more than one visit (so you can spread out your savings), while others must be used all at once.
Buy an entertainment book for a slew of great coupons for local restaurants, service providers and more that are good through the end of the year. Google your city's name plus "coupon book" to find local variations, or look through your local newspaper. (Remember those?) Sometimes, bundles of coupons are mailed to you. If you can combine a coupon with other savings, like using a reward card or a military or senior discount, you can shave a decent-sized bill down to next to nothing.
Many restaurants offer special discounts and deals to loyal customers who engage with them on social media or through email. Join restaurant email lists, "like" the business on Facebook and follow them on Twitter to receive regular deals, special discounts and announcements of upcoming promos.
If you've got children in tow, find out what restaurants offer "kids eat free" days and plan your meals out for those times. If you've got several children in tow, this could help you save money with minimal effort.
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