Stocks Edge Higher on Deals, Fed

Stocks Edge Higher on Deals, Fed

NEW YORK (AP) -- U.S. stocks edged higher Wednesday as investors assessed deal news and comments from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen. Health care stocks gained after cancer drug maker Celgene surged on word that it was acquiring biopharmaceutical company Receptos.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose one point, or less than 0.1 percent, to 2,110, as of 12:27 p.m. Eastern. The Dow Jones industrial average rose seven points, or 0.2 percent, to 18,062. The Nasdaq composite climbed seven points, or 0.1 percent, to 5,111.

YELLEN SPEAKS: Yellen told Congress she sees encouraging signs that the economy is reviving after a harsh winter. If the improvements continue, she said, policymakers will likely start raising interest rates later this year. The Fed's benchmark rate has been at a record low near zero since December 2008, pushing up both bond and stock prices.

HEALTHCARE DEAL: Cancer drug maker Celgene jumped after it said it will buy biopharmaceutical company Receptos for $7.32 billion in cash, gaining a drug Receptos is studying as a treatment for multiple sclerosis and ulcerative colitis. Celgene agreed to pay $232 per share for Receptos.

Celgene climbed $10.96, or 8.9 percent, to $133.77. Receptos jumped $21.58, or 10.4 percent, to $228.71.

BANK EARNINGS: Bank of America gained 54 cents, or 2.7 percent, to $17.60 after the lender said its profits more than doubled in the second quarter thanks to lower legal bills. The bank also said an increase in deposits, lower expenses and an improving balance sheet helped offset a decline in revenue. The earnings were better than analysts had forecast.

THE QUOTE: An improving economy is likely to support corporate earnings, said John Manley, chief equity strategist at Wells Fargo Fund Management. He thinks that the current outlook is too gloomy.

"It's may be too early to tell, but ... they have a better-than-expected tone," said Manley. "Certainly, the bar was set pretty low for the second quarter."

S&P 500 companies are currently forecast to report that profits contracted 4.3 percent in the second quarter, according to data provider S&P Capital IQ.

CHINA DATA: China's economy expanded 7 percent in the April-June quarter, the slowest quarterly pace since the 2008 financial crisis but slightly above forecasts, suggesting stimulus measures are taking hold. The data came as the ruling Communist Party is struggling to reverse a stock market plunge that began early June and threatens to disrupt its economic reform plans.

ASIA'S DAY: China's Shanghai Composite Index fell 3 percent and Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.3 percent. Japan's Nikkei 225 added 0.4 percent.

GREECE BAILOUT: Greece's parliament is set to vote on austerity measures later Wednesday. The country could again roil markets if rejects a bailout plan from its creditors. The International Monetary Fund, one of the country's creditors, criticized the terms of the recent deal. The IMF says that Greece's debt can only be made more sustainable through more expansive debt-relief measures than Europe is currently offering.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude fell $1.28 to $51.76 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Oil has fallen heavily this month as Iran has reached a nuclear deal with world powers. The deal should lead to sanctions being lifted on Iran, allowing it to export more oil, adding more supply to a worldwide production glut.

BONDS AND CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 123.86 yen from 123.35 yen. The euro was down slightly to $1.0969 from $1.1010. Bond prices were little changed from Tuesday. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note was 2.36 percent.

(KA)