Aug. 29, 2012 at 4:04 PM ET
NEW YORK -- Stocks edged higher on Wednesday following upbeat housing data, but volume stayed light ahead of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's speech on Friday.
According to preliminary calculations, the Dow Jones industrial average rose 5.19 points, or 0.04 percent, to 13,108.18. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index moved 1.20 points higher, or 0.09 percent, to 1,410.50. The Nasdaq Composite Index ended up 4.05 points, or 0.13 percent, to 3,081.19.
Daily volume so far this week has been light even for a seasonally slow period, with the trading volumes well below their daily average, an indication that market participants are reluctant to make any major investment moves ahead of the Fed chairman's speech.
Bernanke addresses a conference of central bankers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and could announce new measures to boost growth. He is expected to stoke expectations for a third round of quantitative easing, though he may not detail the timing of such a measure.
Investors are also focusing on the European Central Bank meeting on September 6 and a host of U.S. economic data scheduled for next week, including the Labor Department's payrolls report for August.
Economic data showed pending home sales rose 2.4 percent in July, a bigger rise than had been expected and reaching their highest level in more than two years, according to the National Association of Realtors.
"We're seeing consistently good numbers out of the housing market. It's hard to get too negative on the U.S. economy with the housing market doing better than expected," said Paul Zemsky, chief investment officer of Multi-Asset Strategies at ING Investment Management in New York.
"I think the U.S. is doing pretty well today given what the rest of the world has done," he said. The Shanghai Composite index hit its lowest close since February 2009.
Other data showed gross domestic product grew 1.7 percent in the second quarter. The revised government figure was in line with economists' expectations. Last month the government estimated GDP rose 1.5 percent.
The S&P has dipped over the past two sessions, but the decline was less than 0.1 percent on both days. It hasn't closed with a 1 percent move in either direction since August 3.
The S&P 500 has been pinned in a fairly tight range over the last three weeks, finding support at 1,400 while also unable to convincingly pierce the April high of 1,422.38, which has acted as a resistance point.
Shares of customer reviews website Yelp Inc jumped 18.8 percent to $21.69, the day insiders were free to sell their holdings, in a bit of a surprise for investors.
WellPoint Inc Chief Executive Angela Braly abruptly stepped down late Tuesday following growing investor dissatisfaction with the health insurer's financial performance. Shares rose 7.9 percent to $61.94.
Friday could be a crucial day for the markets as all eyes are focused on Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's speech at Jackson Hole. Below, Paul Hickey of Bespoke Investment Group, Jeffrey Davis of Lee Munder Capital Group, and CNBC's Bob Pisani discuss its possible effects.
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