NEW YORK – Stocks mostly rose on Wednesday in the first trading session since a massive storm in the Northeast forced the first weather-related two-day market closure since 1888.
Trading was expected to be volatile with volume light as many market participants remained unable to get to their offices or work from home given power outages and public transit issues across the region.
"Liquidity remains very light in equities as there are a lot of empty seats on the Street," said Dave Lutz, a Baltimore-based trader with Stifel, Nicolaus & Co. "We're also seeing some outsized moves."
Ford Motor Co rallied 5 percent to $10.83 as the most-traded stock on the New York Stock Exchange after reporting strong results during the market closure. Home Depot climbed 2.4 percent to $61.51 as people bought supplies to repair storm damage.
Still, predictions that exchanges would not be able to handle pent-up trading demand appeared to be unfounded. NYSE Euronext, which operates the New York Stock Exchange, said all its cash equity markets were operating normally and that it expected a normal close.
"I think a lot of people were overly worried after the Facebook initial public offering and the Knight trading glitch, but so far things are going smoothly," said Scott Freeze, president of Street One Financial in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania.
The Dow Jones industrial average was up 14.71 points, or 0.11 percent, at 13,121.92. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was down 0.94 points, or 0.07 percent, at 1,411.00. The Nasdaq Composite Index was unchanged at .00.
Weakness in Apple Inc, which slumped 2 percent to $591.69, weighed on the Nasdaq. The company announced management changes during the market closure. Facebook was down 2.6 percent to $21.36 as a lockup ended and the company allowed employees to start selling some stock.
Industrial stocks were the strongest on the day, rising 0.8 percent as investors bet the group would see additional demand from rebuilding efforts after the storm. The KBW Insurance sector rose 0.1 percent.
Ford posted a third-quarter profit that trounced analysts' forecasts on Tuesday, driven by higher vehicle prices and record profit margins of 12 percent in North America.
General Motors reported earnings on Wednesday that beat expectations, sending its shares up 6.3 percent to $24.75.
Walt Disney Co agreed to buy filmmaker George Lucas's Lucas film Ltd and its "Star Wars" franchise for $4.05 billion in cash and stock, a blockbuster deal that includes the surprise promise of a new film in the series in 2015. Disney, a Dow component, fell 1.4 percent to $49.40.
(Additional reporting by Ed Krudy and Jessica Toonkel; Editing by James Dalgleish and Dan Grebler)