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Stocks edge higher as a 3-day win streak restores some calm

| Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018, 6:21 p.m.
Traders and financial professionals work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange before the closing bell.
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Traders and financial professionals work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange before the closing bell.

NEW YORK — Stocks rose for the third day in a row Tuesday, led by banks, retailers and technology companies. The rebound over the last few days follows a harrowing drop of more than 10 percent over the previous two weeks.

After a wobbly start, stocks started climbing in the early afternoon and wound up with their most placid day in the last few weeks.

Amazon climbed once again, and athletic apparel companies rose following solid fourth-quarter results from Under Armour.

Apple continued to recoup some of its recent losses. Energy companies slipped again, and companies that distribute prescription drugs and medical supplies slumped.

Stocks have been making big swerves higher and lower recently. Last week the Dow Jones industrial average twice fell 1,000 points in a day, sometimes gaining or losing hundreds of points in a few minutes. But on Tuesday, the gap between the Dow's highest mark and its lowest was a more modest 284 points.

Mark Hackett, chief of investment research at Nationwide Investment Management, said investors who have steered clear of the stock market started to pile in over the last few months, but that round of buying ended abruptly.

"The pattern that we saw over the last month and a half is not by any stretch of the imagination unusual," he said, "But it is compressed. It normally doesn't happen over a six-week period."

Hackett said he feels stocks have fallen to more reasonable prices, partly because of the market slump and partly because corporate earnings grew at a strong clip in the fourth quarter.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 6.94 points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,662.94. The Dow added 39.18 points, or 0.2 percent, to 24,640.45. The Nasdaq composite gained 31.55 points, or 0.5 percent, to 7,013.51. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks finished up 3.97 points, or 0.3 percent, at 1,494.95.

On Wednesday the Labor Department will issue its monthly report on consumer prices. Investors will be watching carefully because the recent bout of market volatility was touched off by worries that inflation might be increasing.

"As we move through the rest of this economic cycle and market cycle, higher volatility is going to be normal," said Jeffrey Schulze, the chief investment strategist at Clearbridge Investments. "And a lot of that has to do with the normalization of interest rates."

Under Armour climbed after it reported better-than-expected sales as shoe and accessory revenue picked up. The stock had plunged 50 percent in 2017 on top of a 30 percent decline in 2016. It rose $2.47, or 17.2 percent, to $16.70. Athletic apparel retailer Foot Locker also gained ground.

Amazon climbed $28.28, or 2 percent, to $1,414.51, and dollar stores, department stores and clothing companies made gains as well.

Prescription drug distributor AmerisourceBergen jumped $8.32, or 9.3 percent, to $97.77 after The Wall Street Journal reported that Walgreens Boots Alliance wants to buy the rest of the company. It already owns 26 percent of AmerisourceBergen, one of the largest prescription drug distributors in the U.S. It also distributes products to hospitals and other health systems. The Wall Street Journal said Walgreens made an approach several weeks ago that no offer has been made. Walgreens lost 17 cents to $68.29.

Separately, the Journal reported that Amazon is looking to win over hospitals and clinics to distribute a variety of medical products. Two other distributors of prescription drugs also fell. Cardinal Health lost $2.34, or 3.4 percent, to $65.69 and McKesson fell $2.84, or 1.9 percent, to $146.18.

In January Amazon announced a partnership with JPMorgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway aimed at reducing health care costs. It's widely believed to have designs on a larger role in the health care system.

The Federal Trade Commission said it is suing three large dental product suppliers for conspiring to deny discounts to groups that buy products for small practices. Henry Schein, Patterson, and privately-held Benco control 85 percent of the $10 billion market for products like gloves, sterilization products, lights and dentists' chairs.

The companies rejected the allegations and said they will defend themselves in court. Henry Schein fell $4.79, or 6.6 percent, to $67.39 and Patterson sank $1.71, or 5.2 percent, to $31.21.

Nutrition supplement company GNC Holdings soared 18 percent after it formed a joint venture with Harbin Pharmaceutical Group of China. Harbin is investing $300 million in GNC, which will make it the company's largest shareholder. The stock rose 76 cents to $4.96.

Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.83 percent from 2.86 percent.

Energy companies declined, and benchmark U.S. crude fell 10 cents to $59.19 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, added 13 cents to $62.72 a barrel in London.

Wholesale gasoline add 1 cent to $1.69 a gallon. Heating oil stayed at $1.84 a gallon. Natural gas rose 4 cents to $2.59 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Gold rose $4 to $1,330.40 an ounce. Silver slipped 4 cents to $16.53 an ounce. Copper climbed 8 cents to $3.16 a pound.

The dollar fell to 107.69 yen from 108.67 yen. The euro rose to $1.2355 from $1.2284.

Germany's DAX shed 0.7 percent and the CAC 40 of France fell 0.6 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 lost 0.1 percent. Japan's Nikkei 225 lost 0.7 percent and Hong Kong's Hang Seng index added 1.4 percent. South Korea's Kospi rose 1.1 percent.

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