Stocks close higher, Russell 2000 jumps while blue chips lag

Stocks eased modestly higher in quiet trading, leaving the S&P 500 just 0.3% shy of its May 13 all-time high, but investors remain cautious about making big bets in either direction.

A trio of slightly weaker than expected readings on the U.S. economy were offset by a five-month high in China's purchasing managers' index.

The Russell 2000 index of smallcap stocks, which has underperformed the broader market by a wide margin in recent weeks, jumped 1% today.

Strength in biotechs helped lift the Nasdaq; The top biotech ETF surged 1.9% to regain its 50-day MA after falling below that level in late March.

Treasurys settled near their lows after retreating throughout the session; the 10-year note slid six ticks, with its yield climbing 2 bps to 2.55%.

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