The small-cap sector spent much of Tuesday in negative territory before finishing to the upside thanks to the climbing broad market and rising stocks from a variety of sectors.

Among the biggest gainers was marketing-services firm Valassis Communications ( VCI), which surged 22.2% after third-quarter earnings more than doubled from last year to $16.4 million, or 34 cents a share. Analysts were looking for just 22 cents a share, according to Thomson Financial. Revenue soared to $607.2 million from last year's $248.9 million, easily beating the $582 million consensus. Shares of the Livonia, Mich., company were up $2.36 to $13.

Chesapeake ( CSK), a Virginia-based maker of paperboard packaging products, throttled past estimates with continuing-operations earnings of $6.6 million, or 34 cents a share (excluding special items). Analysts were looking for a loss of 3 cents a share; last year the company made 13 cents a share. Chesapeake stock leapt $1.55, or 27.1%, to $7.26.

That helped prop up the Russell 2000, which also tracks Valassis, and the S&P SmallCap 600. The sector trackers were tacking on about 0.9% apiece.

In more positive earnings, construction-materials maker Headwaters ( HW) and business-software developer Pegasystems ( PEGA) each swung to a profit in the most recent quarter, with Headwaters also topping estimates by a nickel a share. Its stock climbed 6.5% to $14. Pegasystems vaulted $2.12, or 19.7%, to $12.89.

If you liked this article you might like

Lackluster Finish for U.S. Stocks

Lackluster Finish for U.S. Stocks

Stocks Continue to Waver at the Flat Line

Stocks Continue to Waver at the Flat Line

Oil Slides as Stocks Post a Mixed Showing

Oil Slides as Stocks Post a Mixed Showing

Stocks Flutter Near the Flat Line

Stocks Flutter Near the Flat Line

Wall Street Falls Amid Inflation Talk

Wall Street Falls Amid Inflation Talk