S&P 500 Posts for Seventh Weekly Gain as Drugmakers Rally

U.S. stocks rose, capping a seventh week of gains for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, after the pace of hiring increased and drugmakers rallied on favorable decisions by European regulators.

Health-care stocks in the S&P 500 jumped 1.2 percent as a group, led by Biogen Idec Inc. and Gilead Sciences Inc. Time Warner Cable Inc. surged 10 percent on renewed takeover speculation. United Continental Holdings Inc. climbed 3.9 percent after billionaire David Tepper said his “big play in the market” is airlines. International Business Machines Corp. slid 1.5 percent after billionaire Stan Druckenmiller said he’s shorting the shares.

The S&P 500 climbed 0.5 percent to a record 1,804.76 at 4 p.m. in New York. The advance pushed the U.S. equity benchmark to a 27 percent gain for the year, poised to be the biggest annual increase since 1998. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 54.78 points, or 0.3 percent, to 16,064.77. About 5.6 billion shares changed hands in the U.S., 8 percent below the three-month average.

“I don’t see any reason why the market shouldn’t go up,” Karyn Cavanaugh, a vice president and market strategist at ING U.S. Investment Management in New York, said in a phone interview. Her firm oversees $196 billion. “There’s not really any bad news. We have a little bit of a pullback and then people jump in and say, ’Hey, I want a piece of this.’”

The Dow advanced 0.6 percent this week, finishing its seventh straight weekly gain, the longest streak since January 2011. The S&P 500 rose 0.4 percent during the past five days.

Job Openings

David Tepper, the hedge-fund manager who runs Appaloosa Management LP, said stock markets are not inflated as economies in the U.S., Europe and China are on “firm ground.” He said that while he remains bullish on U.S. stocks, markets may fall 5 percent to 10 percent when the Fed curbs its stimulus program.

“I know there’s talk about bubbles, this is not one,” Tepper said in an interview with Bloomberg Television’s Stephanie Ruhle at the Robin Hood Investors Conference in New York yesterday.

Job openings in the U.S. climbed to a five-year high in September, indicating employers were confident about demand before the federal government shutdown. The Labor Department report showed the number of people hired increased to 4.59 million in September, the most since August 2008, from 4.56 million. The hiring rate rose to 3.4 percent from 3.3 percent in August.

The S&P 500 rallied yesterday after three days of losses as data showed weekly jobless claims fell to the lowest level since September and a confidence survey indicated American consumers became less pessimistic this month.

Fed Stimulus

“It’s hard to ignore all the tailwinds to this market,” Chris Bouffard, chief investment officer of the Mutual Fund Store in Overland Park, Kansas, which oversees $8.5 billion, said in a phone interview. “We’ve got low oil, that’s definitely helping consumers, especially going into the key holiday spending period. Buybacks and dividends are doing very well.”

Economic stimulus from the Fed has helped the S&P 500 soar 167 percent since its March 2009 low. The gauge traded for about 17 times its companies’ reported earnings at its last record on Nov. 15, the highest valuation since May 2010.

The Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index, the gauge of S&P 500 options known as the VIX, slid 3.2 percent today to 12.26. The measure is down 32 percent this year.

Drugmakers Rally

Biogen Idec surged 13 percent to $285.62, the biggest gain in more than two years. The company’s multiple sclerosis drug Tecfidera won designation as a “new active substance” in Europe, giving it added protection against generic copies and paving the way for approval there. The pill is projected to be the company’s top-seller by 2015.

Gilead rallied 3.7 percent to a record $74.27. The drug company received a positive recommendation for its hepatitis C treatment from the European Medicines Agency.

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. climbed 6.3 percent to $293.68. An experimental rheumatoid arthritis drug the company is developing with Sanofi eased symptoms and damage caused by the disease in a clinical trial, advancing its prospects to compete in the market.

United Continental rose 3.9 percent to $38.54. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. also lifted its rating on the world’s biggest airline to buy from neutral.

Time Warner Cable jumped 10 percent to $132.92. Comcast Corp. and Charter Communications Inc. have discussed a joint bid for the company to divide its assets between them, people with knowledge of the matter said. The talks between Comcast and Charter were preliminary, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the deliberations are private.

Gap, Intel

Foot Locker Inc. rallied 4.1 percent to $38.27. The largest U.S. athletic shoe retailer posted third-quarter earnings of 68 cents a share, exceeding the average analyst estimate by 2 cents.

Ross Stores Inc. tumbled 5.7 percent to $75.67 for the biggest decline in the S&P 500. The retailer of discount designer wear lowered its forecast for fourth-quarter earnings to no more than $1.01 a share, after previously predicting as much as $1.03. That fell short of the average analyst estimate of $1.08.

Gap Inc. fell 1.3 percent to $41.31. The biggest U.S. specialty-apparel retailer maintained its annual profit forecast range, signaling that the holiday-shopping quarter may fall short of analysts’ estimates.

Intel, IBM

Intel Corp. lost 5.4 percent to $23.87. The world’s largest maker of semiconductors said revenue will be approximately unchanged in 2014. The company predicts the personal-computer market, measured by units, to be down in the “low single-digit” percent, Chief Financial Officer Stacy Smith said.

IBM fell 1.5 percent to $181.30. Stan Druckenmiller, who boasts one of the hedge-fund industry’s best long-term track records of the past three decades, said he’s betting against the shares because the company’s business will be replaced by technology such as cloud computing.

Abercrombie & Fitch Co. slid 2.3 percent to $34.15. The retailer was cut to market perform from outperform at Wells Fargo Securities.

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