U.S. stocks edged higher Wednesday morning, recovering some of their losses from a steep drop before the Christmas holiday that left the benchmark S&P 500 index on the edge of what Wall Street calls a bear market. Gains in big retailers and technology companies outweighed losses in banks and household goods stocks. Homebuilders fell on new data showing U.S. home price growth slowed in October. Oil prices headed higher.
KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 index rose 12 points, or 0.6 percent, to 2,363 as of 11:16 a.m. Eastern Time. The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 71 points, or 0.3 percent, to 21,863. The Nasdaq gained 61 points, or 1 percent, to 6,254. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks picked up 2 points, or 0.2 percent, 1,269.
ON THE BRINK: Wednesday’s gains provide the S&P 500 some breathing room after finishing the shortened trading session Monday just shy of a 20-percent drop from its peak three months ago. That’s what Wall Street calls a bear market, and it would have marked the end to the longest bull market for stocks in modern history after nearly 10 years.
Stocks fell sharply Monday after President Donald Trump lashed out at the central bank. Administration officials had spent the weekend trying to assure financial markets that Fed chairman Jerome Powell’s job was safe. On Tuesday, Trump reiterated his view that the Federal Reserve is raising interest rates too fast, but called the independent agency’s rate hikes a “form of safety” for an economy doing well.
The market’s sharp downturn since October intensified this month, erasing all of its 2018 gains and nudging the S&P 500 closer to its worst year since 2008. Stocks are also on track for their worst December since 1931, during the depths of the Great Depression.
TECH RALLY: Technology stocks accounted for much of Monday’s early bounce. Adobe rose 3.1 percent to $211.53. Payment processors Visa and Mastercard also headed higher. Visa added 2 percent to $124.17, while Mastercard gained 1.9 percent to $178.
THANKS, SANTA: Big retailers were among the gainers. Amazon climbed 2.2 percent to $1,373.79. Kohl’s gained 4.3 percent to $62.36. Nordstrom picked up 2.9 percent to $45.45.
FINANCIALS FOUNDER: Banks and other financial stocks took some of the heaviest losses Wednesday. Goldman Sachs Group lost 1.6 percent to $153.81.
HOUSE OF PAIN: Homebuilders declined after a key index of U.S. home values showed annual price growth slowed in October. Home price gains have been declining since early this year as would-be buyers struggle to afford homes in the face of rising mortgage rates. William Lyon Homes slid 4 percent to $9.91.
OIL: Benchmark U.S. crude climbed 4 percent to $44.24 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, gained 2.9 percent to $52.22 a barrel in London.
The pickup in oil prices helped boost energy stocks. Marathon Petroleum rose 2.1 percent to $55.45.
BOND YIELDS: Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.74 percent from 2.75 percent late Monday.
CURRENCIES: The dollar strengthened to 110.43 yen from 110.41 yen on Monday. The euro rose to $1.1406 from $1.1404.
U.S. SHUTDOWN: The partial U.S. government shutdown that started Saturday is unlikely to hurt the economy much, although it may deprive the financial markets of data about international trade and gross domestic product. The Bureau of Economic Analysis said Wednesday that it’s required to suspend all operations until Congress approves funding, which means that the government might not release its fourth-quarter report on gross domestic product as scheduled for January 30.
MARKETS OVERSEAS: Markets in Europe, Hong Kong and Australia were closed. South Korea’s Kospi gave up 1.3 percent, while Japan’s Nikkei 225 index, which plunged 5 percent on Tuesday, picked up 0.9 percent. Shares fell in Taiwan, Singapore and Indonesia, but rose in Thailand.
AP Economics Writer Josh Boak contributed to this story from Washington.