U.S. Stocks Rally as S&P 500 Touches 2,000 for First Time

U.S. stocks rose, briefly sending the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index above 2,000 for the first time ever, as corporate dealmaking and prospects for economic stimulus in Europe bolstered confidence in the bull market.

The S&P 500 rallied 0.5 percent to 1,997.92 at 4 p.m. in New York, paring gains in the afternoon after holding above 2,000 for less than two hours and reaching a record 2,001.95. The Dow Jones Industrial Average increased 75.65 points, or 0.4 percent, to 17,076.87. About 4.3 billion shares changed hands in the U.S. today, 23 percent below the three-month average.

“This number, 2,000, is a pretty significant number from psychological and financial points,” Joe Bell, senior equity analyst at Cincinnati-based Schaeffer’s Investment Research Inc., said in a phone interview. “Perhaps we might reach a little bit overbought status, and it looks like the index is going to take a breather there.”

Merger and acquisition activity led to some of the biggest moves in the market today. Burger King Worldwide Inc. added 20 percent after saying it’s in talks to buy Tim Hortons Inc. and move its headquarters to Canada. InterMune Inc. surged 35 percent after Roche Holding AG purchased the biotechnology company for $8.3 billion. Morgan Stanley climbed to the highest since 2009 and JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. climbed more than 1.3 percent.

The S&P 500 has recovered almost 100 points since its low during trading on Aug. 7, climbing on nine of 12 days to erase the 3.9 percent drop that began on July 24. The U.S. equity benchmark has advanced for the past three weeks and more than $900 billion has been added to the value of American equities.

European Shares

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index jumped 1.1 percent today as comments by Mario Draghi fanned speculation the European Central Bank is closer to quantitative easing. ECB policy makers “stand ready to adjust our policy stance further” and will use all available instruments to “ensure price stability over the medium term,” Draghi said on Aug. 22.

Futures trading on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange halted for as long as four hours yesterday because of a technical problem, affecting contracts from U.S. stock indexes to Treasuries, oil and gold. CME Group Inc. suspended all of its Globex electronic-trading markets except for Malaysian equity-index derivatives, according to its website. Trading, which was scheduled to start at 5 p.m. Chicago time for some products, began at 9 p.m.

The Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index, the gauge of S&P options prices known as the VIX, added 2 percent to 11.70, the most in 10 days. The gauge has lost 15 percent this year.

Burgers, Coffee

All 10 main S&P 500 groups advanced today, with financial, energy and healthcare stocks rising at least 0.7 percent for the best performances. Morgan Stanley added 2.2 percent to $34.20. Goldman Sachs increased 1.4 percent to $177.87 and JPMorgan Chase advanced 1.5 percent to $59.34 for the biggest gains in the Dow.

Burger King, the burger chain that is majority-owned by 3G Capital, added 20 percent to a record $32.40. U.S. shares of Canada’s Tim Hortons jumped 19 percent to $82.03.

Burger King would create the world’s third-largest fast-food chain by merging with Canada’s bigger seller of coffee and doughnuts, the companies said in a statement. Canada’s corporate tax rate is 26.5 percent, compared with 40 percent in the U.S., according to audit, tax and advisory firm KPMG.

InterMune surged 35 percent to $72.85. Roche will buy the unprofitable company that’s awaiting U.S. approval of its biggest drug, for $74 a share, the Basel, Switzerland-based company said yesterday in a statement.

Ann Inc., the owner of the Ann Taylor chain, rose 6.5 percent to $39.94, the highest in six weeks. The company could be valued at $50 to $55 a share to a potential acquirer, such as a private-equity buyer, according to a letter today from investment firms Engine Capital LP and Red Alder LLC.