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Markets swung up and down throughout Wednesday to end at roughly the same level they started the day at. On a day devoid of events, the markets struggled to find a definite direction. However, despite the meager gains, the Dow recorded its sixth-consecutive day of gains, thus also registering the blue-chip index’s longest-winning streak since February 2011.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) was up 0.1% to close at 13,194.10. The Standard & Poor 500 (S&P 500) gained a mere 0.1% to finish yesterday’s trading session almost unchanged at 1,394.28. The tech-laden Nasdaq Composite Index slipped 0.03% to settle at 3,040.73. The fear-gauge CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) gained 3.5% to settle at 15.31. Consolidated volumes on the New York Stock Exchange, the American Stock Exchange and Nasdaq were 7.45 billion shares, lower than last year's daily average of 7.84 billion. Declining stocks outpaced the advancers on the NYSE; as for 72% of the decliners, only 26% managed to move up. The remaining 2% of the stocks were left unchanged.

Markets took a pause yesterday after recording the biggest gains of the year so far on Tuesday. The biggest rally of the year till now was spurred by a number of events including encouraging consumer data and the central bank’s outlook on the economy, which it said was “expanding moderately”. Meanwhile, a large degree of attention was cornered by JP Morgan Chase & Co.’s (NYSE:JPM) after it announced a dividend hike and a share buyback plan worth $150 million. This was a bit of a surprise, as it came ahead of the Fed’s announcement of its bank stress test results.

Meanwhile, the central bank released the results of its stress tests, originally scheduled for Thursday, after the closing bell on Tuesday. Fifteen of the 19 banks under the scanner passed the Fed’s stress test. Subsequently, financials posted decent gains, building on the gains already garnered on Tuesday. The Financial SPDR Select Sector Fund (XLF) moved up 0.1% yesterday while KBW Bank Index (BKX) jumped 1.3%. Among the financial stocks, American Express Company (NYSE:AXP), Bank of America (NYSE:BAC), U.S. Bancorp (NYSE:USB), Deutsche Bank AG (NYSE:DB) and Wells Fargo & Company (NYSE:WFC) gained 3.5%, 4.1%, 1.5%, 1.5% and 0.1%, respectively.

However, Citigroup, Inc. (NYSE:C) failed to pass the stress test and these results were reflected through the 3.4% drop in its share prices yesterday. SunTrust Banks, Inc. (NYSE:STI), Ally Financial and MetLife, Inc. (NYSE:MET) were the other three that failed. Shares of Sun Trust jumped 4.6% but MetLife slumped 5.8%.

Earlier during the day, reports came in that a quake measuring as much as 6.8 on Richter scale had struck the northern part of Japan. However, with no news of major damage, US markets ignored these developments, and sectors like energy were hardly affected. A little over a year ago on March 11, 2011, the earthquake and the subsequent tsunami had significantly damaged nuclear plants, eventually affecting the energy sector. Yesterday, Energy SPDR Select Sector Fund (XLE) slipped by a percent and stocks including Chevron Corporation (NYSE:CVX), Exxon Mobil Corporation (NYSE:XOM), ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP) and Schlumberger (NYSE:SLB) were down 0.5%, 1.0%, 0.3% and 1.0%, respectively.

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