U.S. markets ended mostly higher Wednesday as investors welcomed the nomination of Janet Yellen as the new head of the Federal Reserve, as well as faint signs of progress on ending the budget stalemate in Washington. But gains were tempered by losses in some high-performing technology stocks, as well as continued concerns the government shutdown, now in its ninth day.
The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) rose 26 points, or 0.2 percent, to 14,803, the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) gained a point to 1,656, but the tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index (^IXIC) shed 17 points, or 0.5 percent, to 3,677.
Facebook (FB) led technology shares lower, dipping 0.8 percent to end at $46.77, and helping the Nasdaq 100 to record its biggest three-day drop since June 2012.
President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans are locked in a battle over funding the government and raising the federal borrowing limit, expected to be exceeded by Oct. 17. The crisis in Washington threatens to damage the nation's credit standing and derail its fragile economic recovery.
%VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%Investors were optimistic about the nomination of Yellen as Fed chair, announced Wednesday afternoon. They expect her to tread carefully in winding down the Fed's economic stimulus, and to provide continuity with the policies of Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, whose second term is due to expire on Jan. 31.
Further, the number of companies reporting third-quarter earnings is picking up this week, giving investors better insight into how corporate America is doing.
In commodities trading, the price of benchmark crude for November delivery slipped $1.88, or 1.8 percent, to $101.61 a barrel, while gold lost $17.40, or 1.3 percent, to $1,307.20 an ounce.
Twitter and Comcast (CMCSA, CMCSK) have signed a partnership that will let viewers access TV shows and buy movie tickets directly from a tweet, deepening the short messaging service's ties to television programming. The new feature is part of a deal that will let customers of Comcast's Xfinify TV service tune in to programs by clicking a "see it" button in a tweet. The button will allow Twitter users who are also Comcast customers to set DVRs, tune in to shows online, on TV or on mobile devices.
Shares of Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) rose $1.88 to $22.63 after the computer maker projected earnings for the fiscal year starting in November that exceeded analyst forecasts. In a meeting with analysts, CEO Meg Whitman says the computer maker will also see "stabilizing revenue declines" next year.
The San Jose, Calif., company expects net income, excluding one-time items, of $3.55 to $3.75 a share in fiscal 2014. The midpoint is 3 cents higher than the $3.62 expected by analysts, polled by FactSet.
More Stocks in the News:
Men's Wearhouse (MW) leaped nearly 28 percent to $45.07 after it rejected a $2.3 billion takeover offer from smaller rival Jos. A. Bank Clothiers, saying it significantly undervalued the company and could raise antitrust issues. The takeover bid valued MW at $48 a share. Jos. A. Bank (JOSB) shares rose 6.4 percent to $44.34.
Ariad Pharmaceuticals (ARIA) plunged more than 66 percent to $5.81 after the company said the Food and Drug Administration had placed a partial hold on patient enrollment for trials of its cancer drug Iclusig.
Alcoa (AA) rose 2.1 percent to $8.11 after the aluminum giant posted a slim third-quarter profit late Wednesday, reversing a year-ago loss.
Yum Brands (YUM) slumped 6.7 percent to $66.50 after the company reported that sales in China have grown weaker and cut its full-year earnings forecast after the closing bell Wednesday.
Family Dollar (FDO) fell 1.2 percent to $68.62 after the discount chain reported sales at stores open at least a year were flat. Back in July, the company had anticipated its same-store sales would rise about 2 percent in the quarter.
Ruby Tuesday (RT) rose 4.4 percent to $7.56 after B. Riley & Co. initiated coverage of the casual-dining chain with a "Buy" rating. Ruby Tuesday holds its investor meeting Thursday and reports third-quarter results later this month.
What to Watch Thursday:
The Labor Department reports weekly jobless claims at 8:30 a.m. (ET)
Freddie Mac releases weekly mortgage rates at 10 a.m.
Safeway (SWY) reports quarterly financial results after U.S. markets close.
-Compiled from staff and wire reports.