Wall Street closes higher as S&P rises above key support level

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The three major U.S. stock indexes ended higher after a choppy session on Tuesday as investors looked forward to earnings season while the S&P 500 pushed above a key support level and shares jumped on bets that criticism from President Donald Trump would not translate to policy changes.

After a volatile session Amazon ended up being the biggest boost for Nasdaq. The White House said it wasn’t taking action even as Trump continued his attacks on the online retailer, according to a Bloomberg report.

Traders said they were heavily focused on technical levels after investors fled on Monday when the S&P 500 breached its 200-day moving average. The benchmark index pushed above that support level just ahead of the last hour of trading on Tuesday and stayed higher for the rest of the session.

“There was opportunity for sellers to break through the 200-day but that didn’t happen. Fundamentals are holding the stock market up. We’re on the verge of the earnings reporting season. That’s going to be a blockbuster,” said Bucky Hellwig, senior vice president at BB&T Wealth Management in Birmingham, Alabama.

Wall Street analysts expect S&P 500 earnings to increase 18.4 percent for the first quarter, according to Thomson Reuters data.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 389.17 points, or 1.65 percent, to 24,033.36, the S&P 500 gained 32.57 points, or 1.26 percent, to 2,614.45 and the Nasdaq Composite added 71.16 points, or 1.04 percent, to 6,941.28.

But some traders said technical sellers could still put pressure on stocks on Wednesday as the S&P’s closing level was still too close for comfort to 2590.76 - the 200-day moving average - and 2532.69 - its Feb. 9 low.

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“I don’t think we’re in the clear,” said Dennis Dick, head of markets structure, proprietary trader at Bright Trading LLC in Las Vegas. “Tomorrow morning will tell us. Every time we get a good rally the sellers come in. What we need is a two-day rally with a sustained buying pressure.”

After spending the day swinging between positive and negative territory the S&P 500’s technology sector, the biggest driver in the current bull market, ended up 1 percent.

Tesla Inc shares gained 6 percent after the electric automaker said it need not raise more capital this year and announced robust production numbers for its cheaper Model 3 sedans. Inc shares ended up 1.5 percent at $1,392.05 though it was still well below its March 13 record of $1,617.54.

In its high-profile market debut, digital music provider Spotify Technology SA closed at $149.01, 12.9 percent higher than the $132 reference price set by the NYSE late on Monday, though well below its intraday high of $169 and its opening price of $165.90.

Viacom Inc fell 3.7 percent after Reuters reported that CBS Corp planned to make an all-stock offer that valued the media company below its current market valuation. CBS shares rose 4.2 percent. CNBC reported late Tuesday that CBS had submitted a bid for Viacom well below its market value.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 2.98-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.86-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted no new 52-week highs and 14 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 36 new highs and 111 new lows.

Volume on U.S. exchanges was 7.14 billion shares, compared to the 7.31 billion average for the last 20 trading days.

Additional reporting by Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and James Dalgleish