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Nasdaq sets another record high on mixed day for US stocks

The Nasdaq composite index notched its third record-high close in three days on Tuesday, eking out a modest gain on a day when the other major US stock indexes barely budged.

After wavering between small gains and losses for much of the day, the Standard & Poor's 500 index closed unchanged, while the Dow Jones industrial average posted a slight loss. More stocks rose than fell on the New York Stock Exchange.

Consumer-focused companies, banks and healthcare stocks were among the biggest gainers. Real estate companies lagged the most. Energy stocks also fell following a drop in crude oil prices.

Encouraging reports on small business confidence and job openings helped keep stocks in the green early in the day. But by mid-afternoon the indexes began to waver.

The Nasdaq composite increased 20 points, or 0.4%, to 5,551.82. The index has closed higher the past six days in a row. The S&P 500 ended unchanged at 2,268.90. The Dow slipped 31.85 points, or 0.2%, to 19,855.53.

While the busiest stretch of the next corporate earnings season does not begin until Friday, several companies reported outlooks or preliminary results on Tuesday that pleased investors.

Illumina jumped 16.6% after it reported better-than-anticipated fourth quarter sales. The company also launched a new genetic sequencing system called NovaSeq. The stock led the gainers in the S&P 500, adding 23.50 dollars to 165.04 dollars.

Alaska Air Group rose 5.2% after the airline, which bought Virgin America in December, reported strong monthly results. The stock gained 4.53 dollars to 92 dollars.

Zimmer Biomet added 6.2% after the medical device maker projected better-than-expected fourth-quarter sales. The stock rose 6.67 dollars to 113.67 dollars.

Other companies' outlooks put traders in a selling mood.

Ascena Retail Group slumped 10% after the company slashed its profit forecast, citing holiday season sales, which fell for most of its store chains, including Ann Taylor, Lane Bryant and Dressbarn. The stock lost 60 cents to 5.41 dollars.

Investors boosted shares in Pacific Continental on news the holding company for Pacific Continental Bank will be bought by Columbia Banking System for 644 million dollars. Pacific Continental shares added 5.35 dollars, or 25.7%, to 26.15 dollars. Columbia shares slid 1.26 dollars, or 2.9%, to 42.05 dollars.

Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.38 % from 2.37 % late Monday.

AP

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