Stocks end higher after two-day decline, Nasdaq lags again

Stock indexes rose in a choppy session, as investors enjoyed data that had March consumer confidence exceeding expectations and hitting a six-year high.

Biotech stocks were again in focus after the group was hit by sharp selling starting on Friday; the iShares biotech ETF bounced between gains and losses to finish slightly higher in heavy volume after sliding 7.5% over the previous two sessions and surging more than 50% over the past year.

The consumer discretionary space saw broad-based selling interest, with retailers lagging while momentum names such as Priceline and Netflix also displayed weakness.

Traders say today's back-and-forth action reflects an environment where few investors are making aggressive bets with the S&P sitting just below record highs.

The dollar held steady against other global currencies, and the yield on the 10-year Treasury note added one basis point to 2.745%.

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