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Stocks close little changed despite strong gains from IBM

CNBC logo CNBC 1/22/2020 Fred Imbert

Stocks ended a volatile session along the flatline Wednesday despite strong gains from IBM that lifted the technology sector.

The Dow lost 9 points. Earlier in the day, the it was up more than 120 points. The S&P 500 eked out a small gain and reached an intraday record. The Nasdaq also notched an intraday all-time high, advancing 0.1%.

IBM shares climbed 3% on the back of quarterly numbers that beat analyst expectations. The company also issued 2020 earnings guidance that topped estimates. These results put IBM “on its front foot for 2020,” Nomura Instinet analyst Jeffrey Kvaal said in a note. “IBM is quickly pivoting its existing businesses toward the hybrid cloud.”

So far, more than 10% of S&P 500 companies have posted their latest quarterly results. Of those companies, 75% have posted better-than-forecast earnings, FactSet data shows.

“Companies, for the most part, are putting up the numbers they need to for the market to keep moving higher,” said Dan Russo, chief market strategist at Chaikin Analytics. “We’re now lapping the tough earnings comparisons from last year, so investors are starting to think about earnings growth again.”

Apple, meanwhile, gained 0.4% and hit an all-time high. Tesla shares jumped 4.1% as the electric car maker’s market cap broke above $100 billion for the first time. Semiconductor stocks also hit an all-time high. The VanEck Vectors Semiconductor ETF (SMH) climbed 0.7% as Intel and Texas Instruments advanced more than 1% each.

However, Netflix closed 3.6% lower to offset some of those gains. Boeing also fell more than 1% to amid renewed concerns over the 737 Max.

Stocks pulled back slightly on Tuesday as worries over the spreading of the deadly coronavirus dampened investor sentiment. Those fears eased Wednesday after China unveiled measures to rein in the virus.

President Donald Trump also said he trusts Chinese President Xi Jinping to deal with the crisis, adding the U.S. has everything “totally under control.” Trump made his comments after U.S. public health officials confirmed that the first U.S. case has been diagnosed in Washington State. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the patient “poses little risk” to the public.

Overall, stocks are off to a strong start for the year. Through 14 sessions, the S&P 500 has closed lower just five times and is up 2.8%.

Paul Schatz, president at Heritage Capital, said the market’s foundation is “rock solid,” but noted investors may be getting too greedy at current levels.

“My issue is not how much we’ve gone up, because there is plenty of precedent for a market that grinds and creeps higher every day,” he said. “The issue today is you have a historic level of bullishness and outright greed. That’s my concern.”

CNBC’s Elliot Smith contributed to this report.

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