Stocks Higher on Positive Economic Signs

Markets Reuters

U.S. stocks rose on Monday on hopes that China will take further accommodative monetary policy action, while merger deals kept traders focused even as volumes were below average.

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Energy shares weighed, with declines in Exxon (XOM) and Chevron (CVX) keeping the Dow industrials flat while the S&P 500 energy sector was down 1 percent. U.S. crude and Brent fell ahead of an OPEC meeting later this week.

Also weighing on the Dow, United Technologies (UTX) fell 1.4 percent to $108.74. Chief Executive Officer Louis Chenevert retired and is being replaced by the company's finance chief in an abrupt change that caught Wall Street off guard.

However, the bullish catalyst was expectation that central banks will continue to boost equities. Following last week's surprise rate cut, China's leadership and central bank are ready to cut interest rates again and also to loosen lending restrictions.

"The carry-over effect from China, taken with the fact that the U.S. is pretty healthy, and you have a market with a bias to trend higher, especially on the cyclical front," said Mike Gibbs, who helps oversee more than $500 billion as co-head of the equity advisory group at Raymond James in Memphis.

At 3:07 p.m. EST (2007 GMT) the Dow Jones industrial average fell 9.47 points, or 0.05 percent, to 17,800.59, the S&P 500 gained 3.95 points, or 0.19 percent, to 2,067.45 and the Nasdaq Composite added 35.27 points, or 0.75 percent, to 4,748.24.

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The weakest S&P 500 industry group was telecoms, down 1.5 percent. AT&T fell 1.7 percent to $34.68 while Verizon (VZ) lost 1.6 percent at $49.41 after Citigroup (C) downgraded the stock to "neutral."

Apple (AAPL) shares, up 1.6 percent to $118.34, led the outperforming Nasdaq. The company was within 1 percent of reaching a $700 billion market cap.

RenaissanceRe Holdings (RNR) agreed to buy Platinum Underwriters Holdings (PTP) for $1.9 billion.

BioMarin Pharmaceuticals (BMRN) said it would buy Dutch drug developer Prosensa Holding NV (RNA) for about $840 million including milestone payments.

Prosensa soared 63.1 percent to $18.66 while Platinum was up 19.7 percent at $73.35.

Cimatron (CIMT) jumped 42.6 percent to $8.67 on its heaviest volume day after 3D Systems (DDD) agreed to buy the company for $97 million. Shares of 3D jumped 7.4 percent to $37.75.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by 1,783 to 1,228, for a 1.45-to-1 ratio; on the Nasdaq, 1,803 issues rose and 898 fell for a 2.01-to-1 ratio.

The S&P 500 was posting 71 new 52-week highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq Composite was recording 103 new highs and 46 new lows. 

(Additional reporting by Ryan Vlastelica; Editing by Nick Zieminski)