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US: Stocks gain on ECB stimulus, pharma deal


[NEW YORK] US stocks on Thursday snapped a two-day losing streak, finishing higher on news of European monetary stimulus and a US$21 billion pharmaceutical merger.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 38.82 points (0.21 per cent) to 18,135.72.

The broad-based S&P 500 rose 2.51 (0.12 per cent) to 2,101.04, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index gained 15.67 (0.32 per cent) at 4,982.81.

The European Central Bank announced it would launch Monday a 1.1-trillion-euro (US$1.2 trillion) bond-buying programme. The ECB also raised its growth forecasts for the 19-nation eurozone.

Shares of pharma company AbbVie fell 5.7 per cent after it announced it would buy leukemia drug maker Pharmacyclics in the latest big pharma deal. Pharmacyclics jumped 10.3 per cent.

Several other pharmaceutical stocks rose, including Biogen (+2.8 per cent), Celgene (+1.0 per cent) and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals (+3.9 per cent).

The US Department of Labor is scheduled to release the February jobs report Friday morning. Analysts expect the US added 240,000 jobs during the month and that the unemployment rate dipped to 5.6 per cent from 5.7 per cent.

Big box retailer Costco Wholesale rose 2.7 per cent after reporting a 29 per cent rise in profits on a four per cent gain in sales in the quarter through February 15.

Grocery chain Kroger advanced 6.7 per cent on a 23 percent rise in profit in the fourth quarter through January 31. The company predicted 3-4 per cent sales growth for this year.

Bond prices were mixed. The yield on the 10-year US Treasury fell to 2.11 per cent from 2.12 per cent, while the 30-year rose to 2.72 per cent from 2.71 per cent. Bond prices and yields move inversely.


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