The Nasdaq reached a 14-year high, though all three indexes closed
off their highs for the session. The S&P 500 finished less than a
point away from its record closing high of 1,848.38.
Humana Inc <HUM.N> and UnitedHealth Group <UNH.N> ranked among the
S&P 500's biggest percentage gainers, with Humana's stock jumping
10.6 percent to $113.69 after it said the government's proposed cuts
to the private Medicare program appeared to be less than it had
forecast. UnitedHealth shares rose 3 percent to $76.01.
Aetna Inc <AET.N> rose 2 percent to close at $71.80 after giving a
2014 earnings outlook.
Weak economic data has largely been blamed on harsh winter weather,
which has kept investors hopeful that the economy's recovery remains
intact. The latest data showed the Chicago Fed National Activity
index fell to -0.39 in January from 0.16 in December while financial
data firm Markit's preliminary February reading on the services
sector fell to 52.7 from 56.7.
"There's still a lot of hope right now (that) the slightly weaker
(economic) numbers we've been seeing are weather-related," said
Bryant Evans, portfolio manager at Cozad Asset Management in
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> rose 103.84 points or 0.64
percent, to close at 16,207.14. The S&P 500 <.SPX> gained 11.36
points or 0.62 percent, to end at 1,847.61, after rising to an
intraday record of 1,858.71.
The Nasdaq Composite <.IXIC> added 29.558 points or 0.69 percent, to
finish at 4,292.968.
The S&P 500 broke above resistance at 1,841, which propelled further
gains, said Mark Luschini, chief investment strategist at Janney
Montgomery Scott in Philadelphia.
The Dow Jones Transportation Average <.DJT>, whose components
include package-shipping companies like FedEx <FDX.N> and United
Parcel Service <UPS.N>, rose 0.4 percent.
In the deal arena, chipmaker RF Micro Devices Inc <RFMD.O> agreed to
buy TriQuint Semiconductor Inc <TQNT.O> for about $1.6 billion.
Men's Wearhouse Inc <MW.N> raised its cash tender offer for rival
men's clothing retailer Jos. A. Bank Clothiers Inc <JOSB.O> to
$63.50 per share from $57.50.
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Shares of RF Micro shot up 21 percent to $7.03 while TriQuint's
stock surged 26.1 percent to $11.64.
Men's Wearhouse shares jumped 7.5 percent to $48.51 while Jos. A.
Bank's stock soared 9.1 percent to close at $60.04.
Helping lift the Nasdaq, shares of eBay <EBAY.O> rose 3.1 percent to
$56.30 as billionaire investor Carl Icahn called again for the
spinoff of eBay's fast-growing PayPal payments business.
Adding some support was news that Ukrainian President Viktor
Yanukovich was ousted. While that leaves a potential power vacuum
and an ailing economy, it calmed some worries.
Many traders are looking ahead to Thursday, when Federal Reserve
Chair Janet Yellen will speak to the Senate Banking Committee in her
semi-annual testimony about monetary policy.
Yellen's comments will be scoured for insight into the extent to
which bad weather has affected economic activity, as well as for
confirmation that the Fed will not make any changes to its schedule
for trimming stimulus.
After the bell, shares of Tenet Healthcare <THC.N> declined 3.8
percent to $46.50 following the release of its results.
About 7.1 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, just above
the 7 billion average so far this month, according to data from BATS
Advancers beat decliners on the New York Stock Exchange by a ratio
of about 1.6 to 1 and on the Nasdaq by about 1.8 to 1.
(Editing by Bernadette Baum, Meredith
Mazzilli and Jan Paschal)
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