The market marched higher, even though investors kept a wary eye on the latest developments in Ukraine.
Tensions over the Ukraine-Russia conflict remain high, but there were no new developments that blocked investors from buying.
The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) rose 61 points, the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) added 3 -- moving to another record high, but the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) fell 5 points.
While the major averages were mostly higher, some of the most interesting action was to the downside.
Investors in Staples (SPLS) found out: it's not so easy after all. The retailer tumbled 15 percent after reporting sales and traffic in its stores fell last quarter. %VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%It also issued a weak outlook and said it will close 225 stores as more of its business moves online. Its stock has missed out on the market rally, now in the red during the past year.
Biotech stocks, which had been red hot until recently, had a rough day. Isis fell 6.5 percent, Aegerion (AEGR) fell 7 percent, Gilead Sciences (GILD) lost 3.5 percent, and Intrexon (XON) lost 5 percent. Biolase (BIOL), which makes medical lasers, fell 9.5 percent.
On the upside, financials continue to provide leadership. JPMorgan Chase (JPM) and American Express (AXP) both gained more than 1 percent.
And the energy sector was strong. Marathon Oil (MRO) rose 4 percent and Valero Energy (VLO) rose 5 percent. Tesoro (TSO) gained 3.5 percent, and Anadarko added more than 1 percent following a pair of brokerage upgrades.
Elsewhere, Yum Brands (YUM) rose more than 3 percent. Robert Baird raised its rating to "outperform," saying that sales in China are improving. China is now the biggest market for Yum's KFC division.
DirecTV (DTV) added 2.5 percent. It's in talks to license Walt Disney (DIS) products. A deal could look similar to one Disney recently signed with Dish Network.
And BJ's Restaurants (BJRI) rallied 21 percent as a big investor group raised its stake in the company and said it will seek several board seats.
-Produced by Drew Trachtenberg.
What to Watch Friday:
At 8:30 a.m. Eastern time, the Labor Department releases employment data for February, and the Commerce Department releases international trade data for January
Federal Reserve releases consumer credit data for January at 3 p.m.
These major companies are scheduled to release quarterly financial statements:
After Market: Stocks Step Higher as Ukraine Threats Appear Subdued
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