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US: Health, pharma shares lead US stocks mostly higher

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[NEW YORK] Strength in health care and pharmaceutical shares offset slumping oil-related equities Monday as US stocks finished mostly higher.

Biotech company Medivation rose 4.2 per cent following a report that it signed non-disclosure agreements with other pharma companies after receiving an unsolicited bid last month from French giant Sanofi. Other pharma companies such as Biogen and Gilead Sciences rose one per cent or more.

But petroleum-linked shares such as oil-services giant Schlumberger and Apache lost more than three per cent as oil prices retreated.

The biggest loser in the Dow was Caterpillar, which makes heavy equipment for the oil and mining industries. It fell 3.5 per cent as commodity prices tumbled.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 0.2 per cent to 17,705.91.

The broad-based S&P 500 rose 0.1 per cent to 2,058.69, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index gained 0.3 per cent at 4,750.21.

Lending Club plunged 34.9 per cent on news of the sudden resignation of Renaud Laplanche as chief executive following a review of US$22 million in loans sold to an institutional investor that did not meet the investor's stated criteria.

Freeport-McMoRan sank 10.8 per cent after announcing it reached a deal to sell its majority stake in a copper mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo to China Molybdenum for US$2.65 billion. Analysts said the asset sale would help Freeport's efforts to reduce debt, but that the Congo asset had been a promising long-term growth prospect.

Krispy Kreme Doughnuts surged 24.3 per cent on news it agreed to be acquired by JAB Beech for US$1.35 billion.

Internet giant Baidu, China's equivalent of Google, fell 2.6 per cent following a ruling by a Chinese regulatory agency criticizing the company for displaying paid results too high and for not clearly saying which listings are paid for. The review came in response to public outcry over the death of a student whose family used Baidu to seek a cancer cure.

AFP