Robust gains abroad provided a spark that helped stocks extend their prior session advance. No real reaction was made to the latest ADP Employment Change, which indicated that private payrolls increased by 201,000 in March. The Briefing.com consensus had called for an increase of 210,000.
Support continues to be broad based, but telecom has consistently been a top performer during the course of the past few sessions. In fact, the sector is up about 5% week to date. Integrated plays AT&T (T 30.71, +0.66) and Verizon (VZ 38.46, +0.17) have hit new 52-week highs in the process.
Strength in both shares of T and VZ helped the Dow climb to within about 20 points of the two-year high that it set little more than a month ago. Meanwhile, strength among small-cap stocks took the Russell 2000 to its highest level since 2008. The broad-based S&P 500 is back near its one-month high, which has it on pace for a quarterly gain of more than 5%. It encountered some resistance in the 1330 zone, though.
Energy stocks experienced some volatility with President Obama's outline of the U.S. energy policy. Energy stocks had been up about 1%, but gave up all of that gain in the minutes leading up to the speech. A lack of surprises enabled the sector to rebound to a 0.8% gain.
Tech stocks traded with relative weakness all session. Although the sector settled in positive territory, its 0.2% gain paled in comparison with what the broad market scored. Despite that, the tech-rich Nasdaq actually edged out its counterparts. Biotech play Cephalon (CEPH 75.44, +16.69) was a top performer after Valeant Pharma (VRX 50.08, +5.69) announced an all cash takeover offer of $73 per share for the company. Both stocks set 52-week highs.
Even though the end of the first quarter is close at hand, participation remains unimpressive in that share volume failed to break 1 billion on the NYSE again. Part of the reluctance among portfolio managers to rearrange their holdings is owed to caution ahead of the official nonfarm payrolls report, which is due this Friday.
Treasuries settled the day with solid gains. Their advance came in the face of a stronger stock market and lackluster results from an auction of 7-year Notes. The auction drew a bid-to-cover of 2.79, dollar demand of $80.9 billion, and an indirect bidder participation rate of 49.4%.
Advancing Sectors: Telecom (+1.4%), Materials (+1.2%), Consumer Discretionary (+1.1%), Materials (+1.0%), Energy (+0.8%), Financials (+0.7%), Health Care (+0.7%), Consumer Staples (+0.6%), Industrials (+0.4%), Tech (+0.2%) Declining Sectors: (None)