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Monday, 24 October 2011 | 21:00

DJ30 PointChange: +104.83 Level: 11913.7 NASDAQ PointChange: +61.98 Level: 2699.44 NQ100 PercentChange: +2.1 R2K PercentChange: +3.3 SP400 PercentChange: +2.9 SP500 PointChange: +15.94 Level: 1254.17 NASDAQ-Adv:2095 Dec: 485 NYSE-Adv:2516 Dec: 519

[BRIEFING.COM] Strong buying today gave the stock market its third straight gain. In that time the S&P 500 has marched nearly 4% higher, crossing above the 1250 line for the first time in more than two months.

Trade ahead of the open was somewhat subdued. Participants appeared neither surprised nor disappointed that officials from Europe failed to unveil the makings of a comprehensive plan intended to restore the health of the region's financial conditions. Monthly manufacturing and services reports from the eurozone were also mixed at best, but some took encouragement that China reported overnight an increase in manufacturing activity, as measured by the HSBC Manufacturing PMI.

Corporate news flow was somewhat limited. Among the more notable announcements, Dow component Caterpillar (CAT 91.77, +4.38) posted earnings that exceeded what Wall Street had expected. The industrial machinery outfit complemented the report with a strong earnings forecast. The stock climbed to a two-month high, but its strength couldn't carry the Dow as high as the other major equity averages.

The Nasdaq staged the strongest gains of the primary indices. Its outsized gain was helped along by tech stocks, which settled the session 1.9% higher. Some merger and acquisition activity helped inspire interest for tech issues. Shares of RightNow Tech (RNOW 42.94, +6.98) surged in response to news that it will be purchased for $43 per share, a premium of 20% over last Friday's closing price, by Oracle (ORCL 32.87, +0.75). Owners of ORCL applauded the move, bidding the stock up to a three-month high.

On a related note, CIGNA (CI 45.34, +0.64) announced that it will pay $55 for each outstanding share of HealthSystems (HS 53.71, +13.55). The offer represents a premium of about 40% above where HS settled last week. News of the planned acquisition sent shares of SXC Health Solutions (SXCI 43.37, -13.05) down sharply due to concerns that the company's business may no longer be needed by HealthSystems.

Commodities also climbed today, giving the CRB Commodity Index a 2.4% gain. The move was led by oil, which surged to a two-month high and settled pit trade with a gain of more than 4% at $91.27 per barrel.

The greenback gave up an early gain to end the day on a down note. It had only been up modestly this morning, but a bounce by the euro undercut the dollar and left it to trade 0.2% below a currency-weighted basket by day's end.

Advancing Sectors: Materials +2.3%, Financials +2.2%, Tech +1.9%, Industrials +1.7%, Health Care +1.4%, Consumer Discretionary +1.4%, Energy +1.2%
Declining Sectors: Utilities -0.4%, Consumer Staples -0.6%, Telecom -0.9%

Source: Briefing

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