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Stocks rise, buoyed by health-care, bank sectors

By Wallace Witkowski and Polya Lesova, MarketWatch –

SAN FRANCISCO — U.S. stocks closed higher on Monday, buoyed by strength in the health-care and bank sectors after data showed some improvement in the economy and Citigroup Inc. reported core earnings that topped analyst expectations.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 95.38 points, or 0.7 percent, to 13,424.23, posting its second daily gain in a row, with 25 of its 30 components trading higher.

Shares of Bank of America Corp. led the index with a 3.5 percent gain, followed by Merck & Co. with a 2.1 percent gain. AT&T Inc., which closed down 1.2 percent, was the biggest weight on the Dow 30.

Health-care stocks led gains in the S&P 500, with shares of Eli Lilly & Co. rallying 4.1 percent. The drugmaker released positive results for a late-stage study of a gastric cancer drug.

Leerink Swann also raised its rating on Lilly to outperform from market perform. Other positive moves in big pharma came from Abbott Laboratories, with shares closing up 4 percent, and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., with shares up 2.5 percent. Biotech giant Amgen Inc. saw its shares close up 2.6 percent.

The S&P 500 Index rose 11.54 points, or 0.8 percent, to 1,440.13, with health care the best performing sector and telecom the worst.

After a wobbly start at the opening bell, gains in the market started to stick once pressure on energy stocks started easing, said Dan Greenhaus, chief global strategist at BTIG.

“The better question is why commodities are down in general,” Greenhaus said, noting the release of decent retail sales data and strong Chinese export data over the weekend.

Oil for November delivery, which had dipped below $90 a barrel at one point during the session, settled down 1 cent at $91.85 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Gold for December delivery settled down 1.3 percent at $1,737.60 an ounce.

Commodity prices weakened as the U.S. dollar rose. The ICE dollar index, which measures the greenback against six currencies, rose 0.1 percent in recent activity.

Stocks were buoyed by Commerce Department data showing that retail sales rose a seasonally adjusted 1.1 percent in September, which was slightly more than economists had expected.

Manufacturing activity in the New York region, while not rebounding as much as expected, still improved from September.

“Those economic reports don’t knock your socks off but they’re indicative of positive economic growth,” said Mark Luschini, chief investment strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott.

Financial stocks were the second-best performing sector on the S&P 500. Shares of Citigroup Inc. closed up 5.5 percent, making the bank the top gainer in the S&P 500. The bank said its third-quarter profit slumped 88 percent to $468 million, but its core earnings of $1.06 a share topped estimates, with analysts polled by Thomson Reuters forecasting 96 cents a share.

In deal news, Japan’s Softbank Corp. said Monday that it will buy 70 percent of Sprint Nextel Corp. in a deal valued at around $20 billion. Shares of Sprint fell 0.7 percent.

The Nasdaq Composite Index rose 20.07 points, or 0.7 percent, to close at 3,064.18, snapping its six-day losing streak. Shares of Texas Instruments Inc.  and Microsoft Corp. closed up 3.5 percent and 1.1 percent, respectively.

For every one stock declining on the New York Stock Exchange two advanced. Volume on the exchange was just over 618 million shares by the close. Advancers also outnumbered decliners two to one on the Nasdaq.

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