A sharp decline in the U.S. trade deficit and upbeat German data
helped improve market sentiment as the data pointed to strengthening
economic fundamentals in both the United States and Europe.
"One way or the other, (the data) is all pointing to the story about
how it might still be tough, but things are starting to point to
better days ahead," said Ken Polcari, director of the NYSE floor
division at O'Neil Securities in New York.
"Overall, if you look at the broader picture, it does feel like it
means it is starting to move ahead."
The S&P healthcare index <.SPXHC>, up 1 percent, was the best
performer among the 10 major S&P sectors, buoyed by a Deutsche Bank
upgrade of UnitedHealth Group Inc <UNH.N> to a "buy." Shares of
UnitedHealth, a Dow component, gained 3.1 percent to close at
$76.51. Tenet Healthcare <THC.N> shares climbed 4.9 percent to
Community Health Systems Inc <CYH.N> shares rose 3.8 percent to
$43.49 a day after the company said the new U.S. healthcare law
should give a slight boost to its 2014 earnings.
The S&P 500's gains followed a three-day losing streak, which pushed
the benchmark index down more than 1 percent as traders took profits
in the wake of 2013's rally that drove the benchmark index up nearly
Data showed U.S. exports hit a record high in November, while weak
oil prices restrained import growth, resulting in the smallest U.S.
trade deficit in four years. German unemployment unexpectedly fell
in December on a seasonally-adjusted basis.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> rose 105.84 points or 0.64
percent, to end at 16,530.94. The S&P 500 <.SPX> gained 11.11 points
or 0.61 percent, to finish at 1,837.88. The Nasdaq Composite <.IXIC>
added 39.501 points or 0.96 percent, to close at 4,153.182.
Shares of Google Inc <GOOG.O> hit a record intraday high of
$1,139.69 before closing up 1.9 percent at $1,138.86. JPMorgan,
which has an "overweight" rating on Google, raised its target price
on the stock to $1,305 from $1,100.
Economic activity may be hurt by a polar vortex — strong upper-level
winds in the Northern Hemisphere that normally hover over the polar
region — that has been pushed south to envelop a large part of the
[to top of second column]
JPMorgan Chase & Co <JPM.N> shares fell 1.2 percent to $58.32 after
the largest U.S. bank holding company said it would pay more than $2
billion of penalties to settle charges by U.S. federal authorities
that it failed to report suspicious activity involving Bernard
Madoff's Ponzi scheme.
GameStop Corp <GME.N> shares plunged 8.4 percent to $44.14, its
biggest drop since May 2013, and ranked as the S&P 500's worst
performer after Sony Corp <6758.T><SNE.N> said it will begin testing
a new PlayStation-based streaming service that could cut into the
video game retailer's used game sales. U.S.-listed shares of Sony <SNE.N>
edged up 0.1 percent to $17.32.
In the pharmaceutical space, Neurocrine Biosciences <NBIX.O> soared
89.7 percent to $18.51, its highest level since June 2006, a day
after it said its movement disorder drug showed a reduction in
symptoms compared with a placebo in a mid-stage study.
Stereotaxis <STXS.O> shares jumped 12.5 percent to $4.50 following
completion of a clinical trial. The Nasdaq biotech index <.NBI>
gained 1.4 percent.
Bob Doll, chief equity strategist of Nuveen Asset Management,
forecast further upside for equities in 2014, with a year-end target
of 1,950 for the S&P 500. But he expects stocks to endure a 10
percent correction during the year.
Volume was modest, with about 6.11 billion shares traded on U.S.
exchanges, slightly above the 6.01 billion average so far this
month, according to data from BATS Global Markets.
Advancing stocks outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a ratio
of 2 to 1, while on the Nasdaq, nine stocks rose for every four that
(Editing by Jan Paschal)
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