US STOCKS-S&P closes higher with defensive sectors leading gains

Reuters

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    * Defensive stocks climb as Treasury yields reverse
    * Intel jumps on replacing CEO, VMware falls
    * Regeneron up as U.S. govt orders more COVID-19 therapy
doses
    * Indexes: Dow off 0.03%, S&P up 0.23%, Nasdaq up 0.43%

 (Updates prices to close, adds details)
    By Sinéad Carew
    NEW YORK, Jan 13 (Reuters) - Wall Street's benchmark S&P 500
index closed slightly higher on Wednesday with defensive sectors
leading gains as investors waited for details of the next U.S.
fiscal stimulus plan and Congress began President Donald Trump's
impeachment hearings. 
    U.S. Treasury yields fell after rising for six straight
sessions, giving a boost to rate-sensitive defensive sectors
such as utilities  .SPlRCU  and real estate  .SPLRCR , while
economically sensitive cyclical sectors lagged.  urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL1N2JO2GV  
    Intel Corp  INTC.O  was the biggest percentage gainer in the
S&P, advancing 7% after the chipmaker said it would replace its
Chief Executive Officer Bob Swan with VMware Inc  VMW.N  CEO Pat
Gelsinger next month.  urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL4N2JO31T
    Wall Street's main indexes had hit record highs last week 
on expectations for a hefty COVID-19 relief package even as an
attack on Capitol Hill ramped up political uncertainty.
    But a day before incoming President Joe Biden's fiscal
relief plan was due to be announced, investors appeared to pull
to the sidelines.  urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL1N2JJ2BL
    "Investors have been for some time looking to the second
half of 2021. They continue to hope for a real reopening," said
Mona Mahajan, U.S. investment strategist at Allianz Global
Investors, New York. 
    Referring to the Treasury yield decline, Mahajan said: "A
day like today is probably natural after a long run. Some of the
laggard (stock sectors) are leading."
    As the U.S. House of Representatives gathered to consider a
second impeachment for Trump after the Capitol invasion by his
supporters which left five dead, some investors were watching to
see whether the process would delay stimulus or other parts of
in-coming President Joe Biden's agenda.  urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL1N2JO18O   
    "The headlines coming in are causing some near term jitters
but it looks like investors are looking past that to the rest of
the year," said Shawn Cruz, senior market strategist at TD
Ameritrade in Jersey City, New Jersey. 
    While utilities, up 1.9%, and real estate, advancing 1.4%,
led percentage gains among the 11 major S&P sectors during the
session, the biggest losers were the more economically sensitive
sectors such as materials  .SPLRCM  and industrials  .SPLRCI ,
which fell about 1%.
    "Investors are in wait-and-see mode for now ... if you're
moving to the sidelines you probably might want to be moving out
of cyclicals," said Cruz.
    The Dow Jones Industrial Average  .DJI  fell 8.22 points, or
0.03%, to 31,060.47, the S&P 500  .SPX  gained 8.65 points, or
0.23%, to 3,809.84 and the Nasdaq Composite  .IXIC  added 56.52
points, or 0.43%, to 13,128.95.
    The S&P had expanded its gains temporarily in the late
afternoon before losing ground again after the Federal Reserve
released its "Beige Book" report which showed U.S. economic
activity increasing modestly in recent weeks as employment
dropped in a growing number of Fed districts due to a surge in
coronavirus infections.  urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nW1N2HY02E
    Seven of the 11 major S&P sectors gained ground. After
boasting a record closing high in the previous day's session,
the Russell 2000  .RUT  closed down 0.8% on Wednesday.
    The S&P growth index  .IGX , climbed 0.5% to outperform the
value index  .IVX , which fell 0.05%.
    Earnings reports from big U.S. banks including JPMorgan
 JPM.N  and Citigroup  C.N  were also on investors minds as they
will mark the unofficial start to the fourth-quarter earnings
season on Friday. 
    Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc's  REGN.O  shares climbed 1.2%
after the U.S. government said it would buy 1.25 million
additional doses of its COVID-19 antibody cocktail for about
$2.63 billion.  urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL4N2JN48Z Shares of VMware fell 6.8% after the
Intel news.
    Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a
1.15-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.19-to-1 ratio favored decliners.
    The S&P 500 posted 44 new 52-week highs and no new lows; the
Nasdaq Composite recorded 252 new highs and three new lows.  
    On U.S. exchanges 13.86 billion shares changed hands
compared with the 12.32 billion average for the last 20
sessions. 

 (Additional reporting by Medha Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by
Marguerita Choy)
 ((sinead.carew@thomsonreuters.com; +1 (646) 223 6186; Reuters
Messaging: sinead.carew.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

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