Stocks: Wednesday's review
Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average gained for an eighth day, extending its longest winning streak in 18 months, after the yen weakened and as brokerages raised investment recommendations on some companies.
Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group Inc., Japan’s 2nd-largest bank by market value, climbed 2.3 percent after Nomura Holdings Inc. said the nation’s economy will rebound sooner than expected. Sony Corp., Japan’s biggest exporter of consumer electronics, advanced 2.6 percent. Toshiba Corp., a nuclear power-plant maker, and Asahi Glass Co. advanced at least 2.2 percent after brokerages increased their ratings on the companies.
European stocks rose for a fourth day, pushing the Stoxx Europe 600 Index to a 2 1/2-year high, as earnings from Heineken NV and Societe Generale SA beat estimates and U.S. housing starts topped forecasts.
Heineken, the world’s third-largest brewer, and Societe Generale, France’s second-biggest lender, rallied more than 3 percent. Sanofi-Aventis SA climbed 3.5 percent after agreeing to buy Genzyme Corp. for at least $20.1 billion. Clariant AG sank the most in eight years after saying it will acquire Sued-Chemie AG in a deal valued at 2 billion euros ($2.7 billion).
U.S. stocks gained Wednesday, propelled by a $20 billion merger in the pharmaceutical sector and a batch of solid corporate earnings.
The S&P 500 (SPX) added 8 points, or 0.6%, to 1,336.40, more than doubling its financial meltdown low of 666.79 on March 6, 2009.
Family Dollar (FDO, Fortune 500) rallied 10% after the discount retailer said it received an unsolicited offer from Nelson Peltz's Trian Group, making it the biggest gainer on the S&P 500.
The Nasdaq (COMP) rose 24 points, or 0.9%, led by a 13% jump in shares of Dell (DELL, Fortune 500), which delivered a stellar fourth-quarter profit. Comcast (CMCSA, Fortune 500) was also a strong performer on the tech-heavy index, with the cable TV provider jumping 5% after reporting better-than-expected quarterly results.
Investors were also cheering the latest big M&A deal. French drugmaker Sanofi-aventis agreed to buy Genzyme, a Massachusetts-based biotech company, for $20.1 billion in cash. The deal was announced before the opening bell. Sanofi (SNY) shares rose 1%, while Genzyme (GENZ, Fortune 500)'s stock increased 1.3%.
Economy: A government report showed the number of housing starts rose more than expected in January, while permits for new construction were weaker than forecast.
Housing starts rose 14% to an annual rate of 596,000 units last month, while building permits, considered a leading indicator of activity, fell 10% to an annual rate of 562,000 in January.
Minutes from the most recent meeting of the Federal Reserve released Wednesday showed that policymakers anticipate a bigger bump in economic growth for 2011 than they thought just a few months ago. But the Fed said the acceleration in growth will mainly be limited to the short term, as growth estimates for 2012 and 2013 were only slightly adjusted.