Stocks Open Higher; Tech, Health Care Lead
Stocks opened slightly higher Wednesday as the market looked for direction ahead of Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's semi-annual report on monetary policy and the economy.
Bernanke's words are likely to influence whether the stock market can recover from yesterday's selloff, with the Nasdaq and the S&P 500 posting their biggest one-day losses since Feb. 4. The Dow's nearly 101 point drop was its biggest since Feb. 8.
Technology, industrials and health care were among the leading sector gainers on the Standard & Poor's 500 while telcomms, materials and energy were at the back of the pack.
In line with a strong tech opening, Intel and Microsoft were near the top of Dow gainers while Merck was the sole bluechip component in red numbers.
In company news, American Tower will buy India's Essar Group's tower unit for $432 million in an equity and debt deal that is expected to expand the world's fastest-growing mobile market.
Industrial conglomerate Emerson Electric said orders turned positive last month due in large part to currency benefits.
Shares of Arena Pharmacaceuticals jumped after the company had its application accepted for an experimental obesity drug.
European shares fell, with banks leading the worst performers, while Asian shares ended the session lower.
While Bernanke will talk about the economy, Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda will be talking to a different set of lawmakers about the automaker's recent recall troubles. It's the second consecutive day of grilling for Toyota executives, with Toyota USA chief Jim Lentz answering questions for two hours Tuesday.
Just one major economic report is on the calendar, with new home sales for January set for release at 10 am. Economists expect a 3.8 percent increase for the month, following a 7.6 percent drop in December. The Mortgage Bankers Association releases its weekly report on mortgage applications at 7 am.
The Treasury will auction $42 billion in 5-year notes today, with the results, as usual, available shortly after 1 pm.
President Obama will address the Business Roundtable at 1 pm, trying to gather support for his various initiatives. That follows a White House dinner last night with a number of prominent CEOs, including JPMorgan's Jamie Damon, GE's Jeff Immelt, and Verizon's Ivan Seidenberg.
Toyota isn't the only automaker with recalls in the news: Hyundai Motor has announced it will recall 47,000 of its new Sonata sedans to fix faulty door latches.
EU regulators begin a preliminary antitrust probe into Google , involving the way it deals with advertising partners and ranks search results.
- Written by Peter Schacknow, Senior Producer, CNBC Breaking News Desk.