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US: Wall Street ends higher on technology, energy boost

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[NEW YORK] US stocks ended higher on Friday after a last-minute trading spike and a technology sector gain offset weakness in financial stocks and sent the Nasdaq higher, giving it a weekly gain for the first time in three weeks.

The energy sector rebounded and finished the strongest of the S&P's 11 sectors with a 0.8 per cent rise as oil prices came back from multi-month lows.

Bank stocks ended lower even after they passed their annual stress test as some results were weaker than expected and investors focused on a flattening yield curve.

The healthcare rally faded on Friday as investors tried to decipher whether a Senate Republican bill to replace Obamacare, released Thursday, would gain enough support to pass.

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The sector closed down 0.1 per cent, clawing back some losses after it dropped sharply late in the session when Republican Senator Dean Heller became the fifth US Republican senator to say he would not support a healthcare bill unveiled by his party on Thursday. The sector still closed 3.6 per cent higher for the week.

Trading volume jumped just before the close due to FTSE Russell's completion of the annual refresh of its benchmarks.

"The effect is going to be focused on small-caps but there's an echo of that in large caps," said Don Townswick, Director of Equity Strategy at Conning & Co in Hartford, Connecticut who noted that most rebalance-related trading is around the close.

More than 10.4 billion shares changed hands on US exchanges, well above the 7.2 billion average for the last 20 sessions.

Oil prices edged up Friday after hitting their lowest point since August earlier in the week, but showed an almost 20 per cent year-to-date drop as production cuts have failed to reduce oversupply.

Even after Friday's gains, the energy sector posted its worst weekly decline since September.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 2.53 points, or 0.01 per cent, to 21,394.76, the S&P 500 gained 3.8 points, or 0.16 per cent, to 2,438.3 and the Nasdaq Composite added 28.57 points, or 0.46 per cent, to 6,265.25.

For the week, the Dow added 0.05 per cent, the S&P rose 0.21 per cent and the Nasdaq gained 1.84 per cent.

Big technology stocks, including Apple, Facebook and Microsoft, were the S&P 500's biggest boosts on the day and sent up the tech sector 0.7 per cent.

The S&P financial index, fell 0.47 per cent, with pressure from banking stocks after the stress test results and ahead of the second part of their test due on Wednesday.

"It is a sell-on-the-news effect," said RJ Grant, head of trading at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods in New York.

"It might get people back to focusing on things like the yield curve."

Instead, investors favoured growth sectors such as tech.

"People are making bets that rates will stay lower for longer and the economy will kind of muddle along and have very tepid growth," said Mr Grant.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 2.14-to-one ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.85-to-one ratio favoured advancers.

REUTERS

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