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While you were sleeping: Overnight wrap 4/2/09

While you were sleeping: BusinessWire overnight wrap

Feb. 4 – Stocks rose on Wall Street after drugmakers Merck & Co. and Schering-Plough Corp. posted earnings that beat estimates and optimism rose about the impact of stimulus packages from Beijing to Washington.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 1.8% to 8080.91 and the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index advanced 1.6% to 838.83. The Nasdaq Composite rose 1.3% to 1514.38.

Merck gained 7.9% to US$30.68 after posting fourth-quarter profit of US$1.64 billion, from a year-earlier loss, helped by lower taxes and cost cuts after it eliminated jobs. The cost cuts made up for a 16% drop in sales of its key Gardasil cervical cancer vaccine. Schering gained 9.6% to US$19.14 after reporting earnings of US$442 million.

Among tech stocks to rally, Hewlett-Packard climbed 3.6% to US$35.90 and Microsoft rose 2.4% to US$18.23.

General Motors fell 2.1% to US$2.83 after reporting sales in America last month tumbled 49%, leading a slump in automakers. Ford Motor Co.’s sales dropped 40%, Toyota Motor’s dropped 32%, Nissan Motor’s slid 30% and Honda Motor’s were down 28%. Ford’s stock rose 3% to US$1.94.

Bank of America fell 12% to US$5.26, leading decliners on the Dow, while Citigroup fell 5.5% to US$3.45.

The number of Americans buying previously owned homes unexpectedly rose in December, suggesting a slump in prices is starting to lure people back to the property market.

An index of pending home resales, where purchase contracts have been signed, rose 6.3 percent to 87.7 from 82.5 in November, according to the National Association of Realtors. Still, separate reports showed a record 19 million homes stood empty in the U.S. in the fourth quarter while property values tumbled by US$3 trillion in 2008.

President Barack Obama is reportedly looking at ways to curb foreclosures by encouraging mortgage lenders to modify the terms of loans.

Copper gained the most in a week on speculation government stimulus packages from China, Japan, Auastralia and the U.S. will help revive economic growth and demand for the metal.

Copper futures for March delivery gained 6.4% to US$1.522 a pound on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

China may add to its already committed 4 trillion yuan of aid, according to a report in the Financial Times, while The U.S. Senate is this week debating Obama’s spending plan for more than US$800 billion.

Crude oil rose amid speculation OPEC production cuts last month will help underpin prices. Crude for March delivery rose 2% to US$40.89 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Gold futures for April delivery fell 1.6% to US$892.50 an ounce in New York.

The U.S. dollar fell against the euro and the yen as government aid packages worldwide stoked investors’ appetite for risk and reduced the heaven appeal of the greenback.

The dollar dropped to $1.3039 per euro from $1.2843. The greenback fell to 89.22 yen from 89.45. The yen weakened to 116.38 per euro from 114.89.

In Europe, the Dow Jones Stoxx 600 Index climbed 1.9% to 189.78. Vodafone Group Plc gained 7%, after posting a 14% gain in third-quarter sales, leading gains in phone stocks. Stocks also rose after the U.S. housing data lifted confidence about demand. Rio Tinto gained 4.3%, leading miners higher, after the price of copper rose.

The FTSE 100 Index climbed 2.1% to 4164.46 and Germany’s DAX 30 rose 2.4% to 4374.96. In France, the CAC 40 gained 1.8% to 2982.39.


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