Closing Update: Dow, S&P 500 Nearing High-Water Marks, Carried Today By Energy, Healthcare Stocks

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Stocks ended higher today, with the Dow Jones Industrial Index climbing to a five-year high, led by energy stocks as crude oil pushed past $97 per barrel amid rising Mid-East tensions. Healthcare and other defensive sectors also rose, in a sign some market participants attributed to growing numbers of retail investors getting back into the market.

Shares began today little changed after a measure of consumer confidence fell to its lowest level in more than a year, offsetting momentum supplied by earlier reports of another big rise in U.S. housing prices during November. But the market moved higher as the session progressed, with the S&P 500 set to finish its best month since October 2011.

Better-than-expected earnings helped propel today's gains, with Valero ( VLO ) rising more than 11% after the refiner reported adjusted net income of $1.88 per share, crushing analyst expectations by $0.70. Quarterly revenue was flat at $34.7 billion.

Eli Lilly and Company ( LLY ) and Pfizer Inc. ( PFE ) underpinned gains in the healthcare sector, with LLY beating Street estimates by $0.07 a share after reporting an $0.85 Q4 profit, with new products making up for revenue lost to patent expirations and generic competition.

Consumer confidence plunged in January to its lowest level in more than a year, reflecting higher Social Security taxes that left most Americans with less take-home pay. The Thomson Reuters/Conference Board consumer confidence index fell to a final 58.6 reading for January, down from a 66.7 score in December and the lowest mark since November 2011.

Home prices in 20 major U.S. cities increased 5.5% in November, marking their biggest jump in six years, according to the Case-Shiller 20-city home price index.

Crude oil continued its rise in world commodities markets, with the March contract ending $1.13 higher at $97.57 per barrel, climbing as high as $97.82 after Egypt's defense chief warned that political unrest could bring about the "collapse" of the state, increasing pressure on President Mohamed Mursi.

Other commodities were mostly higher. February gold rose $7.50 to $1,660.60 per ounce while March silver added 42 cents to settle at $31.20 per ounce. March copper rose 3 cents to $3.69 per pound. March natural gas fell 5 cents to 43.26 per 1 million BTU.

Here's where the U.S. markets stood at the end of regular trading:

Dow Jones Industrial Average up 0.52% to 13,954.42

S&P 500 up 0.51% to 1,507.84.

Nasdaq Composite Index down 0.02% to 3,153.66

GLOBAL SENTIMENT

Hang Seng Index down 0.07%

Shanghai China Composite Index up 0.53%

FTSE 100 Index up 0.71%

UPSIDE MOVERS

(+) SOMH, Agrees to a $64.4-million buyout by Lakeland Bancorp ( LBAI ), with shareholders receiving either $12 a share in cash or 1.1962 shares of LBAI common stock for each share they currently own. LBAI shares are lower today.

(+) IPAR, Reports 6.3% rise in 2012 net sale to a record $654.1 million, beating its prior guidance of $632 million due to better-than-expected Q4 sales. IPAR will issue its Q4 results on March 12.

(+) SWIR, Selling its AirCard business to Netgear ( NTGR ) for $138 million in cash plus another $6.5 million in assumed liabilities. The company also said it is exploring alternatives to return a portion of the proceeds to shareholders, pending approval by the Toronto Stock Exchange. NTGR is lower today.

(+) PLXT, Raised to a Buy rating from a Hold at Wunderlich after the company reports non-GAAP net income of $0.06 a share during Q4, $0.05 better than estimates. Trails analyst forecasts for revenue, generating $23.4 million in sales, $1.45 million under the analyst consensus.

DOWNSIDE MOVERS

(-) SANM, Fiscal Q1 profit misses by $0.05. Guides Q2 below consensus.

(-) VMW, Offers Q1 and FY13 revenue guidance trailing the Wall Street consensus, triggering a slew of analyst downgrades. Also cutting about 900 jobs. Q4 earnings of $0.81 a share beat by $0.03. Revenues were in-line.

(-) OXF, Suspends Q4 cash distributions on its common and subordinated units, citing a need to preserve liquidity.

(-) ANAC, Said its prospective treatment for toenail fungus resulted in a "complete cure" during Phase III testing, but still appears mostly inferior to a competing drug. Results from a second Phase III study of tavaborole are due out in March.



The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The NASDAQ OMX Group, Inc.

Copyright (C) 2014 MTNewswires.com. All rights reserved. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited.


This article appears in: Investing , Commodities

Referenced Stocks: LBAI , LLY , NTGR , PFE , VLO

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