MARKET SNAPSHOT: U.S. Stocks Edge Higher As Health-care, Biotech Shares Extend Rally

By Sue Chang and Anora Mahmudova, MarketWatch Features Dow Jones Newswires

Oracle shares surge after earnings beat estimates

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U.S. stocks benchmarks were trading slightly higher Thursday, with afternoon gains driven by a rally in the health-care and biotechnology sectors.

The S&P 500 rose 3 points, or 0.2%, to 2,439, with eight of the 11 main sectors trading higher.

Health-care stocks led the gains, up 1.5%, as the lawmakers release a "discussion draft (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/senate-republicans-unveil-new-health-care-bill-2017-06-22)" of the health-care bill that is aimed at repealing and replacing Obamacare. The plan includes cutting Medicaid and eliminating penalties for people who don't buy insurance among other changes.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average advanced 22 points, or 0.1%, to 21,431.

The Nasdaq Composite Index traded up 5 points, or 0.1%, to 6,241, supported by the biotechnology advance, which extended Wednesday's climb.

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The iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology ETF (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/biotech-etf-ibb-on-pace-for-best-weekly-gain-7-months-2017-06-22)(IBB) was up 1.7%, led by gains by sharp gains in shares of anitbody-therapy company XBiotech Inc.(XBIT) jumped 9.9% and genomic-therapies company Sangamo Therapeutics Inc. (SGMO) rallied 11%.

Morgan Stanley analysts cited "potentially friendly executive order regarding drug pricing" for biotech stocks' surge. The New York Times reported that President Donald Trump has drafted an executive order (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/drug-stocks-surge-on-report-that-president-trump-plans-to-ease-industry-regulations-2017-06-21-139139) that would ease drug industry regulations.

Oil prices were trying to rebound from a 10-month low. West Texas Intermediate oil futures climbed 1.4% to above $43 a barrel, after trading as low as $42.26 earlier in the session.

On Tuesday, WTI slipped into bear-market territory, defined as a drop of at least 20% from a recent peak, as fears over rising supply from the U.S., Nigeria and Libya gripped the market.

"It looks like oil prices decoupled from the U.S. equity market as investors realize that lower oil prices are not a sign of weakening global demand and therefore economic slowdown, but rather its due to excessive supply from the U.S., Iran and Russia," said Quincy Krosby, chief market strategist, at Prudential Financial.

Krosby noted that lack of economic data and earnings releases is likely to result in tepid moves for the next few weeks.

Economic news and Fed speakers: The leading economic index climbed 0.3% in May and offered further proof the U.S. continues to grow at a steady clip.

Earlier, a report on weekly jobless claims (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/us-jobless-claims-edge-up-3000-to-24100-2017-06-22) showed that fewer than 250,000 Americans applied for unemployment benefits in mid-June, underscoring the strength of a U.S. jobs market whose biggest problem is a growing shortage of qualified worker.

Stock movers: Shares of Oracle Corp.(ORCL) leapt more than 8%, and were on pace for their best daily gain in three years, after its earnings out late Wednesday easily beat analyst expectations (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/oracle-soars-toward-record-highs-after-earnings-beat-2017-06-21).

Read:Oracle leaps to record as cloud transition hits turning point (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/oracle-leaps-to-record-as-cloud-transition-hits-turning-point-2017-06-21)

Shares of Staples Inc.(SPLS) surged 6.5% after Reuters late Wednesday reported that private-equity firm Sycamore Partners is in advanced talks to acquire the office supplies retailer.

Shares of CarMax Inc.(KMX) surged nearly 5% after analyst at RBC Capital raised the stock to outperform form sector perform.

Apple Inc.(AAPL) shares were off by 0.3%. Imagination Technologies Group PLC(IMG.LN), which counts Apple as its biggest customer, said it has put itself up for sale (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/imagination-shares-surge-16-after-putting-itself-up-for-sale-following-apple-dispute-2017-06-22) after a battle with the iPhone maker. Imagination shares soared 16%.

Other markets: Stock markets in Asia closed mixed (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/metals-help-australian-stocks-rebound-other-asian-markets-calm-2017-06-21), with Australia's S&P/ASX 200 index as the outperformer as metals rebounded. Gold was up 0.5% at $1,251.70.

Most major European markets were lower (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/european-stocks-dragged-down-by-oil-shares-for-third-session-2017-06-22). The ICE Dollar Index was slightly higher at 97.60 while the yield on the 10-year Treasurys fell to 2.15%.

--Sara Sjolin contributed to this report.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

June 22, 2017 12:27 ET (16:27 GMT)