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Stocks break two-day slide on strong earnings

Specialist Joseph Dreyer works at his post on

Specialist Joseph Dreyer works at his post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Friday, March 21, 2014. Credit: AP / Richard Drew

Stocks got a lift Tuesday as health care companies bounced back after a heavy sell-off.

Biotechnology stocks in the Standard & Poor's 500 index rose for the first time in five days after a sharp sell-off prompted by lawmakers' complaints over the cost of certain drugs. Merck and Boston Scientific were among the companies that rose.

The stock market has flipped between gains and losses this month, as investors have bought stocks after every dip. While many investors are confident growth will accelerate as the weather moderates, they are reluctant to push stock prices higher before seeing more evidence the economy is picking up.

Mixed signals have undermined investors' confidence after a strong fourth quarter last year suggested U.S. growth was poised to accelerate, said Russ Koesterich, chief investment strategist for BlackRock.

"The investment thesis for 2014 was that the U.S. economy was going to start sprinting ahead," said Koesterich. "It's been a very sluggish start to the year . . . people are not seeing the growth they expected."

The S&P 500 rose 0.44 percent to 1,865.62. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 91.19 points to close at 16,367.88. The Nasdaq Composite rose 0.19 percent to 4,234.27. -- AP

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