Stocks edge higher after manufactured goods report

STEVE ROTHWELL AP Markets Writer Published:

NEW YORK (AP) -- Stocks were mostly higher Wednesday after a strong report on American manufacturing. The maker of the hit game "Candy Crush Saga" flopped in its market debut and Facebook slumped after announcing its acquisition of virtual reality company Oculus.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose three points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,869 as of 1:10 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 40 points, or 0.2 percent, to 16,406. The Nasdaq moved in the opposite direction, and was down 10 points, or 0.3 percent, to 4,223 by the early afternoon.

BEST IN MONTHS: Orders to U.S. factories for long-lasting manufactured goods rose in February by the largest amount since November, 2.2 percent. Demand for airplanes and automobiles drove the gains. Last month's rise in durable goods orders followed a 1.3 percent drop in January.

SLOW GRIND: The stock market is still going through a phase of consolidation after big gains in 2013, and the second half of this year will likely be stronger than the first, said David Lafferty, chief market strategist at Natixis Global Asset Management.

Still, investors should expect lower returns this year. The S&P 500 is up 1.2 percent so far, after surging almost 30 percent last year.

"Equity markets will be fine this year, but expectations have to come down a lot," Lafferty said.

HEALTHY RETURNS: The stocks of health care companies led gains for the S&P 500 Wednesday. The sector is rebounding after getting caught up in a brief sell-off of biotechnology stocks on Friday and Monday. Tenet Healthcare rose $2.69, or 6.9 percent, to $41.57. Quest Diagnostic rose $3.12, or 5.7 percent, to $58.06.

VIRTUAL REALITY: Facebook fell $2.44, or 3.8 percent, to $62.45 after agreeing to pay $2 billion for virtual reality company Oculus. It's Facebook's second big acquisition in as many months. Last month the social network announced that it would pay $19 billion for messaging startup WhatsApp.

CANDY CRUSHED: King Digital Entertainment, the maker of the popular "Candy Crush Saga" game, slumped on its first day of trading. The company raised $499.5 million in an initial public offering. The stock fell $2.53, or 11.2 percent, to $19.91 by midday trading.

FIVE BELOW: Discount retailer Five Below shot higher after its quarterly profit and sales beat analysts' expectations. The stock jumped $4.75, or 12.5 percent, to $42.87 before the start of regular trading.

GAMBLING PROBLEMS: International Game Technology fell $1.26 cents, or 8.5 percent, to $13.59 after the company lowered its annual profit forecast, saying North American gambling revenue has declined more steeply than it expected. Its international business is being hurt by weakening currencies and other problems.

TREASURYS AND COMMODITIES: Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note edged down to 2.71 percent from 2.75 percent from late Tuesday. The price of crude oil rose 66 cents to $99.85 a barrel. Gold fell $8.20, or 0.6 percent, to $1,303.10 an ounce.