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US: Tech leads Nasdaq, S&P 500; Disney sparks media selloff

S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite.jpg

[NEW YORK] The S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite rose on Wednesday following three days of losses as tech shares advanced, while the blue-chip Dow index ticked lower, weighed by Disney's largest daily drop in almost seven years.

Gains in major tech companies Google and Facebook led the advance on the Nasdaq. Apple added 0.7 per cent to US$115.40, up for just the second session in the last 12. The S&P 500 tech sector gained 1 per cent, its best daily performance in three weeks. "There's been a sector rotation into technology because of the improvement in their earnings expectations," said Chad Morganlander, portfolio manager at Stifel, Nicolaus & Co in Florham Park, New Jersey.

Earnings in the technology sector of the S&P 500 are expected to have grown 5.3 per cent in the second quarter, up from a 2.1 per cent increase expected back on July 1, according to the most recent Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S data.

The market's advance is, however, "a modest bounce back after discernable pressure over the last trading sessions," Mr Morganlander said. He cited deceleration in the Chinese economy as a continuing headwind for stocks, specifically commodities-related sectors.

Disney's shares fell to US$110.53, a 9.2 per cent drop and the largest for any day since Dec 1, 2008, after it cut its profit forecast for its cable networks unit, spooking the entire industry.

Shares of Comcast fell 4.7 per cent, Discovery Communications lost 12.1 per cent and Twenty-First Century Fox fell 7 per cent. Disney's shares are still up 17.3 per cent year to date, compared with a gain of 2 per cent on the S&P 500. "Disney has had such a tremendous move in the past months that a setback within the stock price should not be a surprise," said Mr Morganlander.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 10.22 points, or 0.06 per cent, to 17,540.47; the S&P 500 gained 6.52 points, or 0.31 per cent, to 2,099.84; and the Nasdaq Composite added 34.40 points, or 0.67 per cent, to 5,139.95.

Despite the gains on the S&P 500, declining issues slightly outnumbered advancing ones on the New York Stock Exchange by 1,542 to 1,518. On the Nasdaq, however, 1,606 issues rose and 1,203 fell.

US private job growth slowed in July, but a surge in services industry activity to a near-decade high suggested solid economic momentum that strengthens the case for a Federal Reserve interest rate hike this year. Friday's payrolls report is key for traders who are trying to anticipate the Fed's next move.

First Solar shares jumped 16.7 per cent to US$51.92 a day after it reported sharply higher quarterly sales and earnings and said results for the year would top Wall Street estimates.

Shares of Chesapeake Energy tumbled 12.1 per cent to US$7.03 on worries about hefty debt and spending at the No. 2 US natural gas producer.

The benchmark S&P 500 index posted 54 new 52-week highs and 31 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 135 new highs and 107 new lows.

About 7.2 billion shares changed hands on all US exchanges, compared with an average 6.78 billion in the past five sessions, according to BATS Global Markets data.