Stocks Mostly Higher; Telecom Weighs on Dow

Markets Reuters

U.S. stocks rose on Monday, with major indexes hitting fresh records on the back of multiple merger deals and hopes that China will take further accommodative monetary policy action.

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Equities closed a fifth straight week of advances Friday, boosted by accommodative actions from central banks in China and Europe. That factor could continue boosting markets as sources told Reuters that the Chinese leadership and central bank were ready to cut interest rates again and loosen lending restrictions. Such policy changes in the world's second-biggest economy could spur more market gains.

"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.

Cyclical stocks - tied to the pace of economic growth - led gains, with the S&P consumer discretionary sector up 0.8 percent. Financials rose 0.4 percent.

The weakest group was telecom, down 1.6 percent. AT&T fell 1.7 percent to $34.69 while Verizon lost 1.6 percent at $49.41 after Citigroup downgraded the stock to "neutral." Both stocks limited the Dow's advance.

RenaissanceRe Holdings Ltd agreed to buy Platinum Underwriters Holdings Ltd for $1.9 billion.

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

Prosensa soared 64 percent to $18.74 while Platinum was up 20 percent at $73.77.

Cimatron Ltd jumped 42 percent to $8.65 on its heaviest ever one-day volume after 3D Systems Corp agreed to buy the company for $97 million. Shares of 3D jumped 6.1 percent to $37.31.

At 12:26 p.m. (1726 GMT) the Dow Jones industrial average rose 4.47 points, or 0.03 percent, to 17,814.53, the S&P 500 gained 4.65 points, or 0.23 percent, to 2,068.15 and the Nasdaq Composite added 31.78 points, or 0.67 percent, to 4,744.75.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by 1,732 to 1,224, for a 1.42-to-1 ratio on the upside; on the Nasdaq, 1,780 issues rose and 854 fell for a 2.08-to-1 ratio.

The S&P 500 posted 61 new 52-week highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 87 new highs and 37 new lows. 

(Editing by Nick Zieminski)