U.S. stock markets were searching for direction all day Thursday, as lingering doubts about the pace of the economic recovery weighed on traders.
Small caps generally finished the session lower, but the Russell 2000 Index and S&P Small Cap 600 Index both fared better than most of the large-cap indices. The Russell was down 0.09 percent, while the Standard & Poor's Small Cap 600 shed 0.2 percent. The S&P 500 Index, by comparison, was off 0.34 percent.
Despite the overriding negative sentiment, there were a number of individual bright spots in the market, ranging from government consultants to travel companies. Not coincidentally, the Nasdaq Index (where many small caps are traded) finished higher.
|Ticker||Company Name||Closing Price||%Change (1Day)|
| Nasdaq:OWW || Orbitz Worldwide ||$2.85||29.0%|
| Nasdaq:COCO || Corinthian Colleges ||$5.06||26.8%|
| NYSE:HRZ || Horizon Lines ||$1.22||19.6%|
| Nasdaq:HEV ||Ener1||$1.39||14.9%|
Hill International (NYSE:HIL - News): The project management company's shares soared nearly 60 percent after the announcement that it had won contracts worth $1.5 billion to help build a large residential development in Iraq.
Orbitz Worldwide (NYSE:OWW - News): A Chicago court ruling went in favor of the online travel company, which is involved a lingering battle with American Airlines. Now Orbitz can resume listing American's flights and sell tickets. Shares popped 29 percent.
Corinthian Colleges (NasdaqGS:COCO - News): The for-profit education company led the sector higher after the U.S. Department of Education issued "gainful employment" rules that were weaker than expected. Shareholders rejoiced at the 26.8 percent rally.
Horizon Lines (NYSE:HRZ - News): The financially strapped ocean transportation company said it has struck a deal with holders of its 4.25 percent convertible senior notes that will help it restructure all of its $680 million in debt. The day before, the NYSE said HRZ was no longer in listing compliance. Shares ended the day nearly 20 percent higher.
Ener1 (NasdaqGS:HEV - News): The maker of high-capacity lithium-ion batteries for government, military and commercial uses such as solar and wind systems popped, we believe on speculation of increasing demand as many nations reconsider nuclear energy's viability to generate power. Even after yesterday's 15 percent move, HEV is still down 63 percent this year.
Read more about trending stocks on our Small Cap Investor Blog.