NEW YORK - U.S. stocks are rising Wednesday as drugmakers, phone companies and banks and move higher, extending the market's gains into a third day. Investors have been cautious ahead of a British vote on whether the country will stay in the European Union, but indexes have posted consistent gains in the last few days as optimism grows that Britons will vote to remain part of the bloc.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 20 points, or 0.1 percent, to 17,850 as of 11:52 a.m. ET. The Standard & Poor's 500 index picked up six points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,094. The Nasdaq composite gained 20 points, or 0.4 percent, to 4,864.
Phone companies continued to rise. AT&T added 38 cents to $41.45 and Level 3 Communications gained 49 cents to $52.25. Banks also made modest gains as interest rates held steady after posting recent gains, which makes lending more profitable. JPMorgan Chase rose 55 cents to $63.50 and PNC Financial Services edged up $1.06, or 1.3 percent, to $85.59.
Electric car maker Tesla offered to buy solar panel maker SolarCity for up to $2.8 billion in an attempt to create a one-stop shop for cleaner energy as consumers become more concerned about fossil fuels harming the environment. The offer values SolarCity at $26.50 to $28.50 per share. Elon Musk is the chairman and largest shareholder in both companies. He's the CEO of Tesla and SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive is his cousin. SolarCity stock jumped $2.33, or 11 percent, to $23.52 and Tesla slumped $19, or 8.7 percent, to $200.61.
Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen addressed Congress again Wednesday, wrapping up a biannual appearance. On Tuesday stocks traded higher after Yellen said the Fed will proceed cautiously in raising interest rates.
Campaigners on both sides of Thursday's crucial vote on whether Britain should remain in the EU began the final frantic day of campaigning. Polls indicate it will be a tight race but bookies are giving the "remain" camp a higher probability of winning. International experts, including Yellen, have said that a British exit would cause a lot of volatility in global markets and uncertainty for the world economy.
Homebuilder KB Home's profit surpassed estimates and sales were far stronger than expected. Its stock gained 38 cents, or 2.6 percent, to $14.92.
Software maker Adobe Systems announced a larger-than-expected quarterly profit, but analysts were less excited about its projections for the current quarter. Its stock gave up $5.50, or 5.5 percent, to $94.22.
FedEx posted solid quarterly results, but it gave a cautious outlook as the package delivery company spends more money on expanding its groundwork and acquires more aircraft to keep up with the e-commerce boom. Its stock fell $5.76, or 3.5 percent, to $158.19.
Computer and printer maker HP forecast strong results in its fiscal third quarter but announced some changes in its marketing strategy. The company said it won't offer as many discounts on its products and will carry reduced supplies. An analyst for Citi Investment Research called the change a "radical shift." HP fell 46 cents, or 3.5 percent, to $12.87.
Britain's FTSE 100 was up 0.8 percent and Germany's DAX was 1 percent higher. France's CAC 40 rose 0.8 percent. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong picked up 0.6 percent and South Korea's Kospi rose 0.5 percent while Japan's Nikkei 225 fell 0.6 percent.
Benchmark U.S. crude rose 3 cents to $49.88 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the benchmark for international oil prices, slipped 5 cents to $50.61 a barrel in London.
The British pound strengthened as traders anticipated Britain would stay in the EU. Sterling rose to $1.4711 from $1.4663 a day earlier. The dollar declined to 104.60 yen from 104.76 yen. The euro rose to $1.1314 from $1.1257. U.S. government bond prices edged higher. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 1.70 percent from 1.71 percent.