US Stocks Get a Boost From Pharma Companies

November 18, 2014 Updated: November 18, 2014

Stocks moved higher in late afternoon trading Tuesday, on track to deliver a record-high close for the Dow Jones industrial average and Standard & Poor’s 500 index. Pharmaceutical and medical equipment stocks were among the biggest gainers. A positive outlook from homebuilders and encouraging news from Japan and Germany also helped lift markets.

KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 index added 13 points, or 0.7 percent, to 2,054 as of 3:11 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow rose 72 points, or 0.4 percent, to 17,720. The Nasdaq composite gained 35 points, or 0.8 percent, to 4,706.

THE QUOTE: “The broad equity market is in holiday mode,” said Terry Sandven, chief equity strategist at U.S. Bank Wealth Management. “I don’t see the market moving meaningfully higher or lower in the near term until we get greater visibility on what consumers are going to do in the holiday season.”

SECTOR VIEW: Nine of the 10 sectors in the S&P 500 notched gains, led by health care stocks. The sector is up 23.5 percent this year. Telecommunications stocks declined.

HAPPY PILL: Pharmaceutical giant Actavis vaulted 8.5 percent higher a day after it agreed to buy Botox-maker Allergan for $66 billion. Actavis rose $20.99 to $268.77.

“Actavis is up strong, so that suggests it’s a better take on the merger deal, as people get more into the details of it,” said Kate Warne, an investment strategist at Edward Jones.

HEALTHY GAINS: Medical device maker Medtronic was among the biggest gainers in the S&P 500. Medtronic added $3.01, or 4.4 percent, to $72.21.

TABLET PLAY: Nokia, which sold its ailing handset business to Microsoft earlier this year, plans to launch a tablet computer next year that will run on the Android operating system. Shares in the technology and equipment company rose 25 cents, or 3.2 percent, to $7.92.

STAR POWER: Investors bid up shares in a couple of solar energy companies. SunEdison surged 29.3 percent on news the company and subsidiary TerraForm are buying wind energy company First Wind for more than $1.9 billion. SunEdison gained $4.87 to $21.48. Solar power products company JA Solar jumped 8.3 percent after it reported better-than-expected quarterly financial results. The stock added 65 cents to $8.45.

EARNINGS MISSES: Home Depot and Urban Outfitters declined after the companies’ latest quarterly earnings missed analysts’ forecasts. Home Depot fell $1.36, or 1.4 percent, to $96.67. Urban Outfitters shed $2.10, or 6.8 percent, to $28.73.

BUILDING CONFIDENCE: A measure of U.S. homebuilders’ confidence in the housing market rebounded in November as both sales expectations and buyer traffic improved. The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo index rose to 58 this month, up from 54 in October. That puts the index just short of September’s reading of 59, which was the highest level since November 2005, shortly before the housing bubble burst. Shares in most homebuilders rose, led by Beazer Homes USA. The stock gained 29 cents, or 1.5 percent, to $19.60.

COMMODITIES: Benchmark U.S. crude fell $1.03 to $74.61 a barrel in New York. Gold rose $13.60 to $1,197.10 an ounce, silver rose 12 cents to $16.17 an ounce and copper fell four cents to $3 a pound.

BONDS: The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note slipped to 2.32 percent from 2.34 percent late Monday.

From The Associated Press. AP Business Writer Joe McDonald in Beijing contributed to this report.