By Barbara Kollmeyer, MarketWatch , Ryan Vlastelica

Biotech ETFs fall after comments on drug prices

U.S. stocks rose modestly in a volatile session Wednesday as investors digested President-elect Donald Trump's first news conference in months.

Major indexes oscillated between gains and losses, though they trended to the upside as the conference continued. A notable exception was biotech stocks, which slumped after Trump said companies were "getting away with murder (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/biotech-etfs-fall-as-trump-says-more-bidding-needed-on-drugs-2017-01-11)" with respect to drug prices.

Read:MarketWatch's live blog on Donald Trump's press conference (http://blogs.marketwatch.com/capitolreport/2017/01/11/president-elect-donald-trumps-press-conference-live-blog-and-video/)

Energy shares were among the day's biggest gainers, rising alongside a jump in the price of crude oil. Health care stocks were the largest decliners.

In a measure of how uncertainty was not alleviated by the conference, the CBOE Volatility index rose 2.4% on the day, though it remains well below its long-term average. Typically, the so-called "fear index" has an inverse correlation with stocks.

"There's a lot of indecisiveness in the market. We can't seem to built on a rally or get any sustained momentum in a correction," said Mark Luschini, chief investment strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott. "Investors are playing both sides, trying to figure out what earnings willlook like, and what the Trump administration will look like in terms of actual policy."

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 72 points, or 0.4%, to 19,931, while the S&P 500 index rose 3 points to 2,272, a gain of 0.1%. The Nasdaq Composite , which reached its fourth-straight record close on Tuesday (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/us-stocks-stuck-in-waiting-game-ahead-of-trumps-news-conference-2017-01-10), rose 1 point to 5,553.

Markets have advanced since Trump's election in early November, with major indexes hitting repeated records. That rally has shown signs of stalling of late, with some analysts worried that the gains have gotten overdone.

If Trump attempts to tamper down expectations, or if he fails to reassure investors about the recent allegations that Russia may hold compromising information (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/russia-may-hold-compromising-information-on-trump-cnn-reports-2017-01-10) on him, that could spurheavier volatility.

Need to know:The biggest risk as markets shrug at the Trump-Russia imbroglio (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/the-biggest-risk-as-markets-shrug-at-the-trump-russia-imbroglio-2017-01-11)

Investors also watched the confirmation hearings (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/tillerson-says-russia-poses-a-danger-to-us-and-more-testimony-highlights-2017-01-11) of Rex Tillerson, Trump's nominee to head the State Department. Russia and China were major topics of discussion in the hearings.

Read: Gross says this key bond level is a far bigger deal than Dow 20,000 (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/bill-gross-says-this-key-treasury-level-is-far-more-important-than-dow-20000-2017-01-10)

Read:Democracy needs you to survive, Obama says in emotional farewell address (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/democracy-needs-you-to-survive-obama-says-in-emotional-farewell-address-2017-01-10)

Economic docket: No key data releases or Federal Reserve speakers are scheduled for Wednesday. But investors will hear from several Fed officials over the next two days, including Chairwoman Janet Yellen, and retail sales data are due Friday.

Stocks to watch:The iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology ETF (IBB) fell 3.3% on the day while the SPDR S&P Biotech ETF(XBI) lost 3.9% and the VanEck Vectors Biotech ETF (BBH) sank 2.2%. More broadly, the Health Care Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLV) fell 1.3% on the day.

Supervalu Inc.(SVU) reported sales below forecasts (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/supervalu-sales-falls-below-expectations-2017-01-11), sending shares down 8.6% in early trading.

Merck & Co.(MRK) rose 2.2% after the drugmaker said the Food and Drug Administration would grant a priority review for one of its lung-cancer drug treatments (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/merck-shares-rise-after-hours-on-priority-review-lung-cancer-drug-application-2017-01-10).

Ford Motor Co.(F) announced a special dividend and gave updates on its forecasts late Tuesday (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/ford-says-profits-will-improve-in-2018-declares-special-dividend-2017-01-10). (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/ford-says-profits-will-improve-in-2018-declares-special-dividend-2017-01-10) Shares fell 1.8%.

Read: Is this the year for stock pickers? Here are 20 picks from Citi (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/is-this-the-year-for-stock-pickers-here-are-20-picks-from-citi-2017-01-10)

Other markets: European stocks traded mostly flat (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/european-stocks-wander-before-trump-takes-center-stage-2017-01-11). In Asia, , stocks outside of China broadly rose (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/asian-markets-off-to-the-races-hoping-trump-will-reveal-stimulus-details-2017-01-11).

The dollar regained some strength across the board (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/dollar-perks-up-but-big-moves-on-hold-ahead-of-trump-conference-2017-01-11), rising 0.5%, with particular strength against the British pound , which weakened after a reports on industrial production and the trade deficit.

Oil prices rebounded 2.8% after two straight day of losses (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/oil-struggles-after-two-days-of-losses-with-focus-now-on-us-data-2017-01-11), with investors fixated on a report on U.S. supply data due later. Gold prices fell 0.3%.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 11, 2017 12:24 ET (17:24 GMT)

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