US STOCKS-S&P 500 ends higher, boosted by defensives, tech

(For a Reuters live blog on U.S., UK and European stock markets, click or type LIVE/ in a news window.)

* Energy, cyclical sectors lag

* Lower bond yields support technology, growth stocks

* U.S. business activity slows considerably in June-survey (Updates with close of US market)

By Lewis Krauskopf, Devik Jain and Sruthi Shankar

June 23 (Reuters) - The S&P 500 ended higher on Thursday after a day of choppy trading, as gains in defensive and tech shares countered declines for economically sensitive groups as worries persisted about a potential recession.

The S&P 500 swung between positive and negative during the session, as investors weighed whether the Federal Reserve's aggressive rate hikes to control surging inflation would wound the economy.

Benchmark U.S. Treasury yields fell to two-week lows, supporting tech and other growth stocks.

Trading has remained volatile in the wake of the S&P 500 last week logging its biggest weekly percentage drop since March 2020. Investors are weighing how far stocks could fall after the index earlier this month fell over 20% from its January all-time high, confirming the common definition of a bear market.

"There is a tremendous amount of uncertainty about the outlook and so the market is confused," said Walter Todd, chief investment officer at Greenwood Capital in South Carolina.

According to preliminary data, the S&P 500 gained 36.17 points, or 0.96%, to end at 3,796.06 points, while the Nasdaq Composite gained 180.02 points, or 1.63%, to 11,233.10. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 200.60 points, or 0.66%, to 30,683.73.

In his second day of testifying before Congress, U.S. central bank chief Jerome Powell said the Fed's commitment to reining in 40-year-high inflation is "unconditional" but also comes with the risk of higher unemployment.

U.S. business activity slowed considerably in June as high inflation and declining consumer confidence dampened demand across the board, a survey on Thursday showed.

"The Fed wants to see things start to slow and the data is starting to reflect that," said James Ragan, director of wealth management research at D.A. Davidson.

Citigroup analysts are forecasting a near 50% probability of a global recession.

"Economic growth is slowing. Is it going to slow enough to go into a recession, that's the big question," Ragan said.

Defensive groups considered safer bets in rocky economic times were among the top-performing S&P 500 sectors, including utilities, consumer staples and healthcare .

Gains in tech heavyweights Microsoft (MSFT) and Apple (AAPL) also helped support the S&P 500.

The energy sector slumped, continuing its recent pullback after soundly outperforming the market for most of 2022. Declines in Exxon Mobil (XOM) and Chevron (CVX) were among the biggest individual drags on the S&P 500.

Other economically sensitive sectors also fell, including declines for materials and financials. (Reporting by Lewis Krauskopf in New York, Devik Jain and Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru and Boleslaw Lasocki in Gdansk; Editing by Arun Koyyur and Cynthia Osterman)

Copyright © Reuters 2008. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by caching, framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters and the Reuters sphere logo are registered trademarks and trademarks of the Reuters group of companies around the world.

News, commentary and research reports are from third-party sources unaffiliated with Fidelity. Fidelity does not endorse or adopt their content. Fidelity makes no guarantees that information supplied is accurate, complete, or timely, and does not provide any warranties regarding results obtained from their use.