April 9, 2014 / 4:15 PM / in 4 years

US STOCKS-Wall St climbs for second day, Fed minutes on tap

* Internet, biotech stocks lead gains

* Fed minutes scheduled for release at 2:00 p.m. EDT

* Senator opposes Comcast deal to buy Time Warner Cable

* Indexes up: Dow 0.3 pct, S&P 0.3 pct, Nasdaq 0.7 pct (Updates to midday)

By Angela Moon

NEW YORK, April 9 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks rose for a second session on Wednesday, buoyed by a rise in Alcoa shares ahead of the release of minutes from the latest Federal Open Market Committee meeting.

Alcoa Inc gained 3.6 percent to $12.98 as the best performer on the S&P 500 after it reported a decline in first quarter adjusted profit but earnings still came in ahead of analysts’ expectations.

S&P 500 companies’ first-quarter earnings are projected to have increased just 1 percent from a year ago, Thomson Reuters data showed. The forecast is down sharply from the start of the year, when profit growth was estimated at 6.5 percent.

U.S. stocks had advanced in the prior session to snap a three-day losing streak as investors bought beaten-down social media and Internet shares.

Despite the three-day selloff, the benchmark S&P 500 index managed to hold above its 50-day moving average around 1,840, a key support level. The index has successfully defended the 1,840 area several times over the past month.

The day’s gains were gain led by Internet and biotechnology stocks that had tumbled recently.

The Nasdaq biotechnology index was up 2.2 percent at 2,409.72 and the Global X social media index was up 1.8 percent at $18.83.

“In recent days, in general, large caps outperformed small caps, and low-beta companies outperformed those with higher betas,” said U.S. Bank Wealth Management’s equity research team, in a note to clients. Low beta refers to less volatile stocks that also offer less potential return.

“While investor sentiment remains fragile, we continue to maintain a constructive outlook for equities, believing that the path of least resistance is still up.”

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 55.81 points or 0.34 percent, to 16,311.95, the S&P 500 gained 5.55 points or 0.3 percent, to 1,857.51 and the Nasdaq Composite added 28.137 points or 0.68 percent, to 4,141.123.

Year-to-date, five of the ten S&P 500 Index sectors are up and five are down, according to Wells Fargo Advisors. The utility sector leads the rest with a 9.5 percent increase, while the consumer discretionary sector has been the greatest laggard with a 5.5 percent decline.

The Fed is expected to release the minutes from its March meeting at 2 p.m. (1800 GMT). The Fed needs to be more specific about what economic conditions would prompt it to raise interest rates from current rock-bottom levels, a pair of top Fed officials normally at odds on policy said on Tuesday.

Earnings season gets under way this week, with results due from retailer Bed, Bath & Beyond after the close, while financials JPMorgan Chase & Co and Wells Fargo & Co close out the week with results on Friday.

Investors will be looking at the impact of harsh winter weather on first-quarter earnings, and signs of optimism for the second-quarter.

U.S. wholesale inventories rose at a slower 0.5 percent pace in February, in line with expectations, after a revised 0.8 percent gain in January, which could support views that restocking did not help the economy in the first quarter.

General Motors Co shares lost 2 percent to $33.83. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said the automaker is being fined $7,000 a day for missing an April 3 deadline to provide information about its recall of 2.6 million cars for defective ignition switches. Morgan Stanley subsequently cut the stock to “underweight.”

Intuitive Surgical Inc estimated first-quarter revenue well below analysts’ average expectation, mainly due to a 60 percent drop in sales of its flagship da Vinci robot system. Its shares slumped 7 percent to $455.27. The PHLX medical device index lost 0.3 percent.

Constant Contact Inc surged 27.8 percent to $28.02 after the online marketer said it expects quarterly revenue to rise by more than 15 percent.

Shares of Blackstone-backed hotel chain La Quinta Holdings Inc made a subdued market debut as investors took the view the stock was fully priced in a crowded IPO market. La Quinta’s shares, which priced below the expected range at $17, fell as much as 4 percent in early trading but rose nearly 3 percent to $17.50 by midday. (Reporting by Angela Moon; Editing by Nick Zieminski)

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