Stocks nudged higher Wednesday, following a two-day decline in the Standard & Poor's 500, as the economy grew more than first estimated and investors awaited Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's speech on Friday.
The S&P advanced 1.19 points, or 0.1 percent, to 1410.49. The Dow Jones industrials added 4.49 points, or less than 0.1 percent, to 13,107.48. The Nasdaq composite rose 4.05 points, or 0.1 percent, to 3081.19.
"You are right in that narrow little lane where nothing needs to move at this point," says Madelynn Matlock, money manager at Huntington Asset Advisors. "People are actually waiting (to see) if anything comes out of Bernanke's speech that is totally not expected. I don't see any big initiative out of the Fed at this point. The economy is good enough that it's not a disaster, yet it is slow enough that there's no reason to crank up the anti-inflation machine."
The government said gross domestic product climbed at a 1.7 percent annual rate from April through June, up from an initial estimate of 1.5 percent. Separate data showed Americans signed more contracts to purchase previously owned homes in July.
Bernanke may shed light on monetary policy in a speech to central bankers on Friday in Jackson Hole, Wyo. The Fed on Wednesday said the economy continued to expand "gradually" in July and early August. Most regional reserve banks reported employment was "holding steady or growing only slightly," the Fed said.
The S&P 500 has risen 2.3 percent so far in August and is on pace for its third-consecutive monthly advance. Technology, consumer discretionary and financial shares led the gains in the index, adding at least 3% and pacing advances among companies which are most-tied to the economy.
If history is any guide, the S&P 500 may extend gains next month, according to a Bespoke Investment Group study. Going back to 1928, the index has returned an average 0.12 percent in September when it has been up year-to-date through August, the data showed. The measure has risen 12 percent so far in 2012.
Highlights: WellPoint increased $4.41 to $61.80 after Angela Braly resigned as chairman and CEO of the insurer.
Yelp surged $4.11, or 23 percent, as investor confidence in its growth prospects prevailed after a ban lifted on stock sales by some of the largest investors in the online review website.
Sealed Air gained $1.58 to $14.58. The maker of Bubble Wrap hired Dow Chemical executive Jerome Peribere to succeed CEO William Hickey, who plans to retire next year.
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