U.S. Stocks Rise, Capping Best Weekly Gain Since November


U.S. stocks rose to finish the biggest weekly gain for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index since November as takeover speculation lifted health-care companies and financial shares capped their steepest gain on record.

Humana Inc., the second-biggest provider of U.S.-funded health insurance, jumped 7.7 percent as investors placed bets that it will be acquired. Merck & Co. added 13 percent after Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. advised buying the shares because of the company’s planned acqusition of Schering-Plough Corp. Citigroup Inc. and Morgan Stanley climbed more than 5 percent as the S&P 500 Financials Index extended its five-day gain to 34 percent, the steepest weekly rally since the gauge was created in 1989.

The S&P 500 increased 0.8 percent to 756.55. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 53.92 points, or 0.8 percent, to 7,223.98. The Russell 2000 Index climbed 0.8 percent. About three stocks gained for every two that fell on the New York Stock Exchange.

The S&P 500 rose almost 11 percent over the past five days, its biggest weekly increase since a 12 percent rally in the period ended Nov. 28. The advance came after the benchmark index for U.S. equities closed at a 12-year low of 676.53 on March 9.

European stocks climbed, capping the Dow Jones Stoxx 600 Index’s biggest weekly rally in two months, as Bank of America Corp. said it will be profitable this year and China and Japan pledged aid for their economies.

The Stoxx 600 climbed 0.7 percent to 168.57 as Bank of America joined JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Citigroup Inc. in saying that it made money during the first two months of 2009. The gauge pared gains in afternoon trading as U.S. stocks fell on concern over rising credit-card defaults.

The benchmark for European equities advanced 5.7 percent this week, the most since Jan. 2, as the Swiss central bank cut its interest rate to close to zero and China’s spending on factories increased.

National benchmark indexes rose in 12 of 18 western European markets. The U.K.’s FTSE 100 added 1.1 percent and France’s CAC 40 climbed 0.4 percent. Germany’s DAX was little changed.

Asian stocks rose, led by banks and electronics companies, as Japan and China signaled more measures to bolster their sagging economies. The MSCI World Index snapped four weeks of losses with its biggest weekly gain since November.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index rose 3.5 percent to 74.63 as of 7:23 p.m. in Tokyo, taking its weekly advance to 3.7 percent. The gauge has slumped 17 percent this year, extending last year’s record 43 percent drop as the global recession decimated profits at companies from BHP to Canon.

The MSCI World Index gained 1.5 percent, extending its climb this week to 8.4 percent, the most since the period ended Nov. 28. Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average gained 5.2 percent to 7569.28, the most since Dec. 15, 2008. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index rose 4.4 percent.


TradingEconomics.com, Bloomberg
3/13/2009 1:45:34 PM