Volumes rose to 3.51 billion on the New York Stock Exchange and 1.69 billion on the Nasdaq. Decliners edged advancers by a ratio of 1.1-to-1 on the Big Board and 1.4-to-1 on the Nasdaq.
The Republican-controlled House of Representatives overwhelmingly extended the debt ceiling out to May 19 by a 285-144 vote.
President Barack Obama indicated Tuesday that he would not oppose the plan, while U.S. Senator Harry Reid said he is happy to see the clean debt ceiling legislation in the House, and that it's a "big step in the right direction."
"The worst fears of a disorderly default ... in early March won't come to pass, apparently," RBS strategists said.The economic calendar was thin Wednesday. The FHFA Housing Price Index rose 0.6% for November after rising by an upwardly revised 0.6% the prior month. According to Thomson Reuters data, the blended estimate for the fourth quarter, which reflects reported results and analyst expectations, is for year-over-year growth of 2.7% for the S&P 500, up from 0.1% in the third quarter. Seventeen percent of S&P 500 companies have reported so far. Gold for February delivery fell $6.50 to settle at $1,686.70 an ounce at the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, while March crude oil futures slipped $1.45 cents at $95.23 a barrel. The benchmark 10-year Treasury was up 4/32, diluting the yield to 1.832%. The dollar was ticking up by 0.06%, according to the U.S. dollar index. Google, the search giant, posted fourth-quarter earnings growth of 12%. Coach (COH - Get Report) shares plunged 16% after the U.S. luxury handbag maker reported disappointing earnings and revenue after lackluster holiday season sales. US Airways (LCC) shares gained 1.5% after the airline booked better-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings. Cree (CREE) shares surged 22% after the LED-products maker announced stronger-than-anticipated quarterly results and provided a positive outlook. Research In Motion (RIMM) shares were off 3.1% as a Citigroup analyst said that the recent excitement over the company's BlackBerry 10 launch was overly optimistic and advised investors not to buy into the rally. The analyst reiterated a "sell" rating and $6 price target on the stock. -- Written by Andrea Tse and Joe Deaux in New York.
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