FILE- In this March 12, 2019, file photo a handheld device of trader Sal Suarino is reflected in his glasses as he works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. The U.S. stock market opens at 9:30 a.m. EDT on Thursday, March 21. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

US stocks move broadly higher, led by technology companies

March 21, 2019 - 1:45 pm

U.S. stocks moved broadly higher in afternoon trading Thursday, on track to snap the market's two-day losing streak.

Technology companies powered the rally, which offset modest losses in financial sector stocks. Investors were weighing the latest batch of company earnings reports and some key analyst stock upgrades.

Apple climbed after an analyst upgraded the technology giant's shares. Chipmakers gained after Micron Technology issued a strong outlook for the year. Olive Garden owner Darden Restaurants soared after reporting earnings that were far better than analysts were expecting.

Levi Strauss surged after it began trading as public company for the second time the clothing brand's 166-year history.

Biogen, a major biotechnology company, slumped on news it has stopped a trial for an Alzheimer's drug. Regions Financial led a decline in financial sector stocks, which are being hurt by declining bond yields.

Bond prices continued to rise Thursday, sending yields lower, a day after the Federal Reserve said it expected the economy to slow down and that it no longer expected to raise interest rates this year.

Despite a couple of downbeat days, the S&P 500 is closing in on its second straight weekly gain. The benchmark index is up 13.6 percent so far in 2019. That's better than the full-year gains for the benchmark index in four of the past five years.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 182 points, or 0.7 percent, to 25,928 as of 1:38 p.m. Eastern Time. The S&P 500 index rose 0.9 percent and the Nasdaq composite climbed 1.1 percent.

Major European stock indexes were mostly lower.

MEMORY RECOVERY: Micron led technology stocks higher, surged 8.6 percent after the chipmaker beat Wall Street's forecasts for the fourth quarter and said it expects the memory chip market to recover in the second half of the year.

The company's chips are used in phones and other technology. Chipmakers have been struggling as a global economic slowdown cuts into product sales.

The upbeat forecast by Micron helped lift some of its peers. Nvidia rose 4.9 percent and Advanced Micro Devices climbed 7.4 percent.

SEAL OF APPROVAL: Apple rose 3.6 percent after analysts at Needham & Co. upgraded the technology giant's stock to a strong "Buy," saying the company's new services initiatives could attract new users.

CARBOLOAD: Olive Garden owner Darden Restaurants climbed 6.4 percent after the company blew past Wall Street's quarterly profit forecast and raised its own profit forecast for the year.

The company also operates LongHorn Steakhouse, The Capital Grille and Eddie V's. Olive Garden was the star of the quarter, with a key sales measure jumped 4.3 percent as more customers sat down for the restaurant's pasta and bread.

RIVETING IPO: Levi Strauss soared after its IPO hit the market for the second time the brand's 166-year history. The stock was up 33.4 percent from its offering price of $17.

The company previously went public in 1971, but the namesake founder's descendants took it private again in 1985.

GOOD EATS: Conagra Brands vaulted 12.8 percent after the packaged food company beat third-quarter profit forecasts on higher prices for some of its products.

BIOGEN BOMBS: The biotechnology giant plunged 29.1 percent after the company halted development of a highly anticipated Alzheimer's drug. The company and its partner determined that the drug would likely be ineffective.

The company lost more than $17 billion in market value.

Like its peers, the drugmaker spends heavily on research and development in the hopes that revenue from a successful drug will make up for the costs.

GUESS NOT: Clothing retailer Guess gave investors a disappointing fourth-quarter report and forecast, which sent its shares 13 percent lower.

The company's fourth-quarter profit and revenue both came up short of forecasts. Its profit forecast for the year also fell far shy of Wall Street's expectations.

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