(By Balachander) U.S. stocks ended slightly higher after a data showed the world's largest economy grew slightly better than initially estimated and investors awaited remarks by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke later this week. An upbeat housing report also boosted sentiment.
S&P 500 Index rose 0.09 percent to finish at 1,410.50. The Dow Jones Industrial Average inched up 0.03 percent to end at 13,107.48. The Nasdaq Composite Index advanced 0.13 percent to close at 3,081.19.
A report from the U.S. Commerce Department showed that the gross domestic product grew at a 1.7 percent annual pace in the second quarter, compared with its initial estimate of a 1.5 percent increase.
Meanwhile, pending home sales hit a two-year high in July and rose more than expected, a data showed. The National Association of Realtors said pending home sales increased 2.4 percent following a 1.4 percent decline in June, while economists expected a 1.0 percent rise.
U.S. economic activity continued to expand gradually in July and early August, according to the Fed's Beige Book, a report on current economic conditions in each of the 12 Federal Reserve districts.
Bernanke will address the Fed's annual symposium Jackson Hole, Wyoming, on Friday as investors look forward to speech by the Fed chief for any hints of further stimulus measures.
Hot Stocks Of The Day: WLP, HNZ, YELP, JOSB, SEE, ZLC, ARQL, MAKO, DY
In corporate news, WellPoint Inc. (NYSE:WLP) jumped 7.68 percent after the health insurer's chief executive Angela Braly resigned amid growing shareholder criticism due to disappointing results. The company named executive vice president John Cannon as interim CEO.
H.J. Heinz Co. (NYSE:HNZ) retreated 2.30 percent after the ketchup and soups maker posted quarterly sales that fell short of market expectations. The company reiterated its growth forecast reflecting double-digit growth in Emerging Markets as well as improved productivity and higher margins.
Yelp Inc. (NYSE:YELP) soared 22.51 percent. Lockup on about 53 million shares of the online business-review website expired Wednesday.
Jos. A. Bank Clothiers Inc. (NASDAQ:JOSB) jumped 13.96 percent after the retailer of men's casual clothing reported a 13 percent rise in quarterly earnings as revenue grew in double digits and results topped market expectations.
Sealed Air Corp. (NYSE:SEE) jumped 12.15 percent after the food safety company announced the retirment of its Chief Executive Officer William Hickey, effective March 2013. The company appointed Dow Chemical executive Jerome Peribere as CEO.
Zale Corp. (NYSE:ZLC) rose 5.10 percent after the company reported a narrower quarterly loss as revenue grew and margins improved and the jewelry retailer forecasts positive net income for fiscal 2013.
ArQule Inc. (NASDAQ:ARQL) tumbled 18.51 percent after the clinical-stage biotechnology company said its Japanese partner Kyowa Hakko Kirin Co. has temporarily suspended enrolling patients in a late-stage trial of its lung cancer treatment tivantinib.
Mako Surgical Corp. (NASDAQ:MAKO) gained 11.06 percent. U.K.'s Corin Group Plc (LON:CRG) said it has completed stocking orders of instruments and implants from MAKO, for use with their robotic orthopaedic system.
Dycom Industries Inc. (NYSE:DY) plunged 19.07 percent after the contracting services company's quarterly results trailed Wall Street projections.
Pandora Media Inc. (NYSE:P) is due to post results after the market closes. Wall Street analysts, on average, expect the Oakland, California-based Internet radio services provider to lose 3 cents a share on revenue of $100.9 million for the second quarter.
TiVo Inc. (NASDAQ:TIVO) is expected to post a loss of 24 cents a share on revenue of $54.3 million for the second quarter ended July.
European markets closed mixed, with Germany's DAX up 0.11 percent to close at 7,010.57. France's CAC40 declined 0.51 percent to finish at 3,413.53. U.K.'s FTSE 100 dropped 0.56 percent to end at 5,743.53.
Among Asian markets, China's Shanghai Stock Exchange Composite Index declined 0.96 percent to finish at 2,053.23. Japan's Nikkei 225 added 0.40 percent to end at 9,069.81. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index edged 0.12 percent lower to end at 19,788.51. India's BSE Sensex closed at 17,490.81, down 0.80 percent.
Commodity & Currency Scan:
Crude oil futures tumbled 1.17 percent to $95.20 per barrel while natural gas futures added 0.77 percent to $2.634 per million metric British thermal units. Gold futures shed 0.65 percent to $1,658.9 per ounce and silver futures declined 0.67 percent to $30.755 per ounce.
In the currency market, the euro slipped 0.28 percent against the U.S. dollar to 1.2530. The British pound inched up 0.08 percent against the greenback to 1.5832, and the dollar rose 0.23 percent against the Japanese yen to 78.6900.