Stocks drifted in and out of the plus column Wednesday, but ended with solid gains. Investors pulled in the reins a bit in anticipation of the employment numbers we'll get Friday morning, though a number of forecasters expect a much stronger increase in jobs added than we've seen in recent months.
The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI gained 40 points, ending just a whisker shy of its record high. The Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) added 8, and the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) rose 5 -- scoring a record for the second straight day.
The Dow was led upward by some old-line industrials. Caterpillar (CAT) gained nearly 3 percent and United Technologies (UTX) gained 1.5 percent.
But some of the big name tech stocks lost ground. IBM (IBM), Cisco Systems (CSCO) and Intel (INTC) all fell about half a percent.
General Motors (GM) rose 1.5 percent even though CEO Mary Barra was back on Capitol Hill for a second round of withering criticism for failing to recall cars with a dangerous fault.
Some of the actively traded Nasdaq stocks had a rough day. Twitter (TWTR) fell 3 percent, Yelp (YELP) fell 6 percent, LinkedIn (LNKD) lost 2.5 percent and Netflix (NFLX) edged lower. But Tesla (TSLA) rose 6 percent.
The big winner of the day was Mannkind (MNKD). The bio-pharmaceutical company soared 74 percent after winning FDA approval of its diabetes treatment.
Myriad Genetics (MYGN) rose 11.5 percent. Cuts to the Medicare reimbursement of its breast cancer test were not as steep as feared. And Intuitive Surgical (ISRG) added to Tuesday's big gain, up another 5 percent, following approval of its robotic surgical system.
On the downside, Apollo Education (APOL) fell 9 percent after it reported that enrollment continued to decline at its for-profit University of Phoenix. Even after the day's decline, Apollo shares are up 85 percent from a year ago.
A similar patter for Tyson Foods (TSN). It fell for a second straight day, down another 5 percent. But shares of the chicken and pork producer have jumped 25 percent already this year.
Finally, Time Warner Cable (TWC) gained 2 percent on reports it could be back in play because Comcast (CMCSK) stock has dropped so much since they agreed to a buyout price.
What to Watch Thursday:
The Commerce Department releases international trade data for February and the Labor Department reports weekly jobless claims, both at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time.
At 10 a.m., the Institute for Supply Management releases its survey of service-sector businesses for March, and Freddie Mac reports weekly mortgage rates.
-Produced by Drew Trachtenberg.