The economic recovery that equity investors are counting on remained elusive, but that didn't stop the betting on Wednesday. Despite weaker-than-expected reports on durable goods and weekly chain-store sales, major averages rose, albeit with far less ebullience than on Tuesday.

The government reported orders for durable goods fell 2.4% in April vs. consensus expectations for a 1% drop. Additionally, March's gain -- which helped spur bullish tidings -- was revised down to 1.4% from 2% originally. Separately, chain-store sales fell 2.7% in the first three weeks of May, according to Instinet's weekly Redbook report. (Still, the S&P Retail Index rose 0.8% behind strength in industry heavyweights Costco ( COST) and Target ( TGT).)

On the notion steady-as-she-goes is preferable to a moonshot, the lackluster reports proved to be a "good thing" because they tempered traders' preopening giddiness. Instead of spiking higher, as equity futures indicated would occur prior to the 8:30 a.m. EDT economic reports, stock proxies rose gingerly in the early going. Shares retreated soon thereafter before setting intraday highs right around noon on Wall Street.

After trading as high as 8854.53 -- a hair below its Jan. 15 intraday best -- the Dow Jones Industrial Average slid steadily in the afternoon, trading as low as 8773.93 before rallying again in the final hour. The index closed up 0.1% to 8793.12. Following similar patterns, the S&P 500 closed up 0.2% to 953.22, it highest close since Aug. 22, while the Nasdaq Composite gained 0.4% to 1563.24.

At its midday apex of 959.39, the S&P established a new high since the October lows, surpassing its Dec. 2 intraday best of 954.32. The next major technical obstacle for the index is its August high just below 965.

In so-called other markets, the price of the 10-year dipped modestly, its yield rising to 3.42%; crude futures shed 2.9% to $28.51 per barrel; and gold dipped 0.7% to $365.20 per ounce. Elsewhere, the dollar continued to rebound vs. the euro, which was at $1.1758 in late New York trading vs. $1.1827 late Tuesday and the intraday peak above $1.19.

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