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US: Wall St advances with help from technology, financials

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[NEW YORK] US stocks rose on Thursday as technology and other growth sectors rebounded from the prior day's declines and financial shares snapped a 13-day losing streak.

The technology sector rose 1.1 per cent, adding the most gains to the S&P 500. The sector's top gainer was consulting firm Accenture PLC, which rose 5.9 per cent after it reported quarterly revenue and profit above estimates.

The S&P 500 financial index rose ahead of results from the second round of the US Federal Reserve's stress test for banks and lenders.

Financial stocks have been battered recently as the Treasury yield curve between 2-year and 10-year notes flattened. Some investors said the financial sector was due to bounce back after its string of losses.

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"The feeling just was it was overdone," said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment strategist at Inverness Counsel in New York. "We're seeing a snap-back today, more or less."

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 98.46 points, or 0.41 per cent, to 24,216.05, the S&P 500 gained 16.68 points, or 0.62 per cent, to 2,716.31, and the Nasdaq Composite added 58.60 points, or 0.79 per cent, to 7,503.68.

Earlier in the day, the S&P 500 seesawed between gains and losses. Some investors cited caution, given lingering worries regarding US international trade relations, as the end of the quarter approached.

"There's been inconsistency out of the White House as to what the (trade) policy actually is," said Brian Battle, director of trading at Performance Trust Capital Partners in Chicago. "We're all just waiting and tapping our foot to see the actual policy."

Shares of several drugstore chains, drug distributors and pharmacy benefit managers fell after Amazon.com Inc said it would buy online pharmacy PillPack. Amazon's entry into the pharmacy business could disrupt major players in the field nationwide, with mail-order pharmacies seen fighting the biggest battles. Amazon shares rose 2.5 per cent.

Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc, already under pressure after its third-quarter earnings report, tumbled 9.9 per cent after touching a more than 3-1/2-year low. It weighed the most on the Dow, followed by UnitedHealth Group Inc, which fell 1.3 per cent.

Shares of CVS Health Corp sank 6.1 per cent, Rite Aid Corp fell 11.1 per cent and Express Scripts Holding Co lost 1.4 per cent.

Amazon's reach was not limited to the health sector. Its plans to entice entrepreneurs to set up their own package-delivery businesses sent shares of United Parcel Service Inc and FedEx Corp skidding 2.3 per cent and 1.3 per cent, respectively.

Starbucks Corp dropped 2.6 per cent after the company said its chief financial officer, Scott Maw, will retire at the end of November.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.52-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.23-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted nine new 52-week highs and 24 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 44 new highs and 115 new lows.

Volume on US exchanges was 7.13 billion shares, compared with the 7.28 billion average for the last 20 trading days.

REUTERS