U.S. Stocks Keep Rising as Health-Care Companies Lead the Way

(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

U.S. stocks are rising Wednesday as gains in health care and media companies put major indexes on track to set more records. Drugmaker Vertex Pharmaceuticals is surging on positive results from potential treatments for cystic fibrosis. Morgan Stanley is rising after the investment bank’s trading desks had a good second quarter. The technology component of the Standard & Poor’s 500 is at an all-time high.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 11 points, or 0.5 percent, to 2,471 as of 2:45 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average made a smaller gain because IBM was sharply lower. The Dow added 44 points, or 0.2 percent, to 21,618. The Nasdaq composite gained 41 points, or 0.6 percent, to 6,385. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks jumped 13 points, or 0.9 percent, to 1,440. All four indexes have set record highs within the last week.

VERTEX AT THE CENTER: Vertex Pharmaceuticals climbed after it reported strong results from studies of drug regimens that are intended to help hard-to-treat forms of cystic fibrosis. Vertex soared $27.61, or 20.9 percent, to $169.77. That followed a 2.3 percent gain Tuesday after regulators approved a cancer treatment the company developed. Vertex’s stock has more than doubled this year and it is trading at all-time highs.

Other health care companies also traded higher, including health insurers. Cigna picked up $1.88, or 1.1 percent, to $173.98; and UnitedHealth added $2.11, or 1.1 percent, to $188.96. Those companies mostly fell Tuesday after the Republican-backed health care bill failed in the Senate.

TV TIE-UP: Scripps Networks and Discovery Communications jumped after the Wall Street Journal reported that the two cable network companies are in talks to combine. Scripps — which owns HGTV, Food Network and Travel Channel — climbed $9.76, or 14.6 percent, to $76.78. Discovery Communications, which runs TLC and Animal Planet, gained $1.01, or 3.9 percent, to $27.06.

TECH RECORD: Facebook picked up $2.17, or 1.3 percent, to $165.03; and Microsoft advanced 63 cents to $73.93; while Cisco Systems rose 47 cents, or 1.5 percent, to $31.99.

The S&P 500 technology index finally surpassed its peak from late March 2000, at the height of the dot-com boom. That index came close to an all-time high in early June, but then technology companies went into a swoon that lasted about a month. Their recovery over the last two weeks also helped the Nasdaq composite set a new high Tuesday.

ENERGY: Oil prices rose after the U.S. government said fuel stockpiles shrank last week. Benchmark U.S. crude rose 72 cents, or 1.6 percent, to $47.12 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the standard for international oil prices, gained 86 cents, or 1.7 percent, to $49.70 per barrel in London. Oil prices have mostly stayed between $40 and $55 a barrel since mid-February of 2016 after they plunged from more than $100 a barrel in mid-2014.

Wholesale gasoline rose 4 cents to $1.62 a gallon. Heating oil gained 4 cents to $1.55 a gallon. Natural gas lost 2 cents to $3.07 per 1,000 cubic feet.

DASH OF HOT SAUCE: Spice maker McCormick agreed to buy RB Foods, the food division of Reckitt Benckiser, for $4.2 billion. That will give the company brands including French’s mustard and Frank’s RedHot. McCormick lost $5.16, or 5.3 percent, to $91.98. Other food companies traded higher. Campbell Soup rose $1.68, or 3.3 percent, to $52.67; and Chef Boyardee maker Conagra Brands added 46 cents, or 1.4 percent, to $33.78.

ANY IDEAS, WATSON? IBM posted weaker sales than analysts expected, and its stock dropped $7.13, or 4.6 percent, to $146.87.

TRADE WINS: Morgan Stanley climbed after the investment bank said its trading businesses did well during the second quarter, a contrast to rival banks which reported poor trading results as market conditions were quiet last quarter. Morgan Stanley rose $1.17, or 2.6 percent, to $46.31.

METALS: Gold inched up 10 cents to $1,242 an ounce. Silver rose 3 cents to $16.30 an ounce. Copper lost 2 cents to $2.71 a pound.

BONDS: Bond prices inched lower. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.27 percent from 2.26 percent.

CURRENCIES: The dollar dipped to 111.79 yen from 111.98 yen. The euro fell to $1.1519 from $1.1563.

OVERSEAS: The CAC 40 of France rose 0.8 percent, and the British FTSE 100 jumped 0.6 percent. Germany’s DAX added 0.2 percent. Japan’s Nikkei 225 stock index edged up 0.1 percent, and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong climbed 0.6 percent. The South Korean Kospi added 0.2 percent.

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