BUSINESS

Stocks close higher on deal news, Fed notes

Deal news gave the stock market a lift Wednesday.

Health care stocks rose after generic drugmaker Mylan bid $29 billion for rival Perrigo. That offset a slump in energy stocks prompted by a big drop in oil prices.

In Europe, oil company Royal Dutch Shell agreed to buy BG Group for $69.7 billion in cash and stock.

Corporations worldwide are seeking to increase growth through acquisitions and have announced almost $1 trillion of deals so far this year, according to data provider Dealogic. That's giving a boost to stock markets as the acquiring companies typically offer a premium for their targets.

“There's obviously the big debate about whether (deals are) value-creating or value-destroying,” said Dan Morris, Global Investment Strategist at investment company TIAA-CREF. “But in the short term it is generally good for markets.”

The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 5.57 points, or 0.3 percent, at 2,081.90. The Dow Jones industrial average was up 27.09 points at 17,902.51. The Nasdaq composite gained 40.59 points, or 0.8 percent, to 4,950.82.

Investors were also parsing the minutes from the latest Federal Reserve meeting for clues about the timing of a possible interest rate increase, and waiting for companies to start reporting their first-quarter earnings. Alcoa, a metals maker, one of the first major companies to report earnings, said after the close that its revenue fell short of analysts' expectations.

Generic drugmaker Perrigo was the biggest gainer in the S&P 500. The stock surged $30.29, or 18 percent, to $195 after the Mylan announced that it had made a cash-and-stock offer for the company. That's a premium of 24 percent to the latest closing price for Perrigo shares.

Both Mylan and Perrigo recently left the U.S. for Europe. If they combine they would form one of the world's largest makers of generic and over-the-counter generic medicines. Mylan's stock also rose, gaining $8.79, or 15 percent, to $68.36.

Energy stocks were the biggest decliners on the day, slumping as the price of oil plunged.

Oil fell nearly 7 percent, its biggest drop in two months, after the Energy Department reported an increase in oil storage that was about three times what analysts had expected.

Crude stocks rose by 11 million barrels during the week ending April 3, reaching a new high for this time of year.Benchmark U.S. crude fell $3.56 to close at $50.42 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, fell $3.55 to close at $55.55 in London.

Investors also parsed the minutes of the Federal Reserve's March policy meeting that were released in Wednesday afternoon.

Fed officials disagreed widely last month on when they might begin lifting interest rates from record lows. Minutes of the March meeting revealed that several policy makers favored a rate hike in June, while others were concerned about low inflation. Policy makers have held the Fed's benchmark rate at close to zero for more than six years.

“I don't think the minutes are going to cause people to alter their views as to when the Fed is going to raise interest rates,” said Sean Lynch, co-head of global equity strategy at Wells Fargo Investment Institute. “Our thoughts are still that they raise rates sometime this summer.”

Corporate earnings will also be in focus in coming weeks.

Companies are set to start reporting earnings for the first quarter. Earnings per share are projected to decline by about 3 percent for S&P 500 companies, according to data from S&P Capital IQ. That would be the first contraction since the third quarter of 2009, when the economy was emerging from the Great Recession.

A big slump in oil prices last year his crimped profits at energy companies, and a surging dollar is hurting the earnings of big multinational corporations.

U.S. government bond prices were little changed. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note was flat at 1.89 percent. The dollar fell to 120.06 yen from 120.30 yen Tuesday. The euro slipped to $1.0799 from $1.0823.

In metals trading, gold fell $7.50 to $1,203.10 an ounce, silver fell 39 cents to $16.45 an ounce and copper fell three cents to $16.45 a pound.

In other energy futures trading on the NYMEX:

— Wholesale gasoline fell 12.2 cents to close at $1.739 a gallon.

— Heating oil fell 8.6 cents to close at $1.698 a gallon.

— Natural gas fell 6.1 cents to close at $2.619 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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