US SMALL/MIDCAPS-Tech, commods lead gains, oil pressure off

NEW YORK Thu Feb 24, 2011 5:04pm EST

NEW YORK Feb 24 (Reuters) - Mid and smallcap stocks outperformed the broader market on Thursday as pressure on equities from rising oil prices eased, powered by gains in the technology and basic materials sectors.

Oil prices, which pressured equities earlier in the week, eased even as forces loyal to ruler Muammar Gaddafi launched a fierce counter-attack on Libyan rebels holding towns near the capital of the OPEC member.

"Even with good earnings small and midcaps have been beat up in the last few days as the price of oil has gone up dramatically," said Gary Bradshaw, portfolio manager at Hodges Capital Management in Dallas.

"If oil goes down they will continue to do well; we still see a lot of bargains out there."

Oil sank from 2-1/2-year highs near $120 a barrel in a late-day slide, dragged down by an unsubstantiated rumor Muammar Gaddafi had been shot and Saudi Arabia's assurances it can counter supply disruptions in Libya. For details see [O/R].

Materials shares lifted midcaps to their best session in a week. Specialty metal products maker Brush Engineered Materials Inc BW.N jumped 20.4 percent to $41.50 as quarterly results exceeded estimates and the company forecast a strong 2011.

The S&P smallcap materials sector .6GSPM added 2.1 percent and the broader S&P SmallCap 600 index .SML advanced 0.5 percent. The S&P MidCap 400 index .MID edged 0.06 percent lower and the benchmark S&P 500 .SPX fell 0.1 percent.

Standard & Poor's said Wednesday after the closing bell midcap Navigant Consulting Inc (NCI.N) will replace Genoptix Inc GXDX.O in the smallcap index, and Northern Oil and Gas Inc (NOG.A) will replace Navigant in the midcaps, effective after the close of trading on Friday.

Navigant fell 3.2 percent to $9.35 while Northern Oil added 4.3 percent to $29.53. (Reporting by Rodrigo Campos; Editing by Andrew Hay)

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