MARKET SNAPSHOT: U.S. Stocks Struggle For Direction, But Biotech Shares Extend Rally

By Sara Sjolin and Anora Mahmudova, MarketWatch Features Dow Jones Newswires

Oracle shares surge after earnings beat estimates

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U.S. stock-market indexes bounced around on Thursday, with investors struggling to shake off the recent gloom hanging over the oil market even as crude futures headed modestly higher.

The S&P 500 was up by less than a point at 2,435, with six of the 11 main sectors trading lower. Health-care stocks led gains, up 0.7%, while financials and consumer-staples shares were leading losses, down 0.4% and 0.3% respectively. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was little changed at 21,401.

The Nasdaq Composite Index was trading around break-even levels at 6,238, but biotechnology shares extended Wednesday's rally. The iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology ETF(IBB) was up 1.2%, led by gains by sharp gains in shares of anitbody-therapy company XBiotech Inc.(XBIT) and genomic-therapies company Sangamo Therapeutics Inc. (SGMO) up 14% and 6%, respectively.

Thursday's tepid moves come after moderate losses on Wednesday, with indexes closing in negative territory for a second straight session. (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/us-stocks-set-for-2nd-day-in-red-as-oil-continues-to-roil-markets-2017-06-21)

The tech-heavy index rose 0.7% on Wednesday as biotech shares surged more than 4%, after 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.

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Stock-index futures had traded in deeper negative territory before the market open Thursday, but pared losses after oil prices rebounded from a 10-month low. West Texas Intermediate oil futures climbed 0.7% to $42.82 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.

"The weakness in the price of oil has wider ramifications than just 'Hey, great, we have cheaper oil.' Oil is a messenger, and it is saying 'deflation is a risk,'" said analysts at Stifel in a note.

Economic news and Fed speakers: A May report on leading indicators at 10 a.m. Eastern. See:MarketWatch's economic calendar (http://www.marketwatch.com/economy-politics/calendars/economic).

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.

Also at 10 a.m. Eastern, Federal Reserve Governor Jerome Powell is expected to testify to the Senate Banking Committee on bank reform and economic growth.

Stock movers: Shares of Oracle Corp.(ORCL) leapt 12% 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)

Apple Inc.(AAPL) shares were off by 0.2%. 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.

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 0.6% at $1,253.4.

All 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 lower at 97.539, as were yields on the 10-year Treasurys, down 2 basis points to 2.14%.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

June 22, 2017 10:04 ET (14:04 GMT)