Markets finally ended in the green for the first time this year thanks to gains in healthcare stocks and a lower trade deficit. The S&P 500’s first positive finish this year also helped it avoid the record of having the worst start to a year since 1978. Also, investors mood was somewhat lifted by the confirmation of Janet Yellen’s nomination as Fed chairman.
For a look at the issues currently facing the markets, make sure to read today’s Ahead of Wall Street article
The Dow Jones Industrial Average secured three-digit gains yesterday as it jumped about 106 points, or 0.6%, to close at 16,530.94. The Standard & Poor 500 (S&P 500) too jumped 0.6% to end Tuesday’s trading session at 1,837.88. The tech-laden Nasdaq Composite Index jumped the most among these benchmarks as it gained 1% to close at 4,153.18. The fear-gauge CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) was at 12.92, down 4.7%. Composite volume on the New York Stock Exchange was about 3.5 billion. The advancers outpaced the decliners on the NYSE by a ratio of 2 to 1.
Looking at the S&P 500 index, it just managed to avoid the worst start to a year since 1978. The fourth-consecutive close in the red would have ensured that. However, the three-straight days of losses that ushered in 2014 had ensured S&P 500 of the worst start to a year since 2005. Yesterday, 9 of the index’s10 sectors ended in the green, led by healthcare and technology stocks. In fact, snapping its three-day losses, the S&P 500 had its best gains since Dec 18.
The bullish mood in the healthcare sector was largely due to what analysts from brokerage houses had to say or do about two healthcare bellwethers. Analysts predicted that UnitedHealth Group Inc. (NYSE:UNH) may hike premium charges this year. Another set of analysts upped Johnson & Johnson’s (NYSE:JNJ) outlook to Outperform. The stocks of these two bellwethers gained 3.1% and 2.1%, respectively. Separately, Community Health Systems’ (NYSE:CYH) shares rose 3.8% on comments by the company that U.S. healthcare will somewhat prove accretive to its 2014 earnings.
The Health Care Select Sector SPDR (XLV) ended with gains of 1.1%. Among other healthcare stocks, Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE), Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK), Novartis AG (ADR) (NYSE:NVS), Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd (ADR) (NYSE:TEVA), Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories Limited (ADR) (NYSE:RDY) and Medtronic, Inc. (NYSE:MDT) gained 0.6%, 0.7%, 0.4%, 1.8%, 1.1% and 1.1%, respectively.
The technology stocks were also big gainers and helped lift the broader markets as well. Among the gainers, Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC), NVIDIA Corporation (NASDAQ:NVDA), QUALCOMM, Inc. (NASDAQ:QCOM), Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG), Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Oracle Corporation (NYSE:ORCL) increased 0.5%, 1.6%, 0.7%, 1.9%, 0.8% and 1.0%, respectively.
Also lifting the mood was the report that trade deficit had narrowed in November. The U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, through the Department of Commerce, reported that goods and services deficit had narrowed to $34.3 billion in November from $39.3 billion in October. Exports in November improved $1.7 billion to $194.9 billion, while imports dropped $3.4 billion to $229.1 billion.
Separately, Janet Yellen comfortably won the Senate confirmation with 56 votes in favor of her as opposed to 26 on the other side. This clears the way for Yellen to take charge as the next Federal Reserve chairman after Ben Bernanke’s term ends on Jan 31.
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