Health Care, Banks Lead Stocks

NEW YORK (AP) -- Banks and health care companies are rising Wednesday and retailers are making gains as stocks are on pace to add to a three-day winning streak. The dollar is weaker after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the declining dollar is good for U.S. exporters, suggesting he isn't likely to try to stop the currency's recent slide. Gold and silver prices jumped. Mattel slumped after Toys R Us, which recently filed for bankruptcy protection, said it will close 20 percent of its U.S. stores.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index jumped 12 points, or 0.5 percent, to 2,851 as of 10:05 a.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 175 points, or 0.7 percent, to 27,386. The Nasdaq composite rose 19 points, or 0.3 percent, to 7,479. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks picked up 3 points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,614.

Stocks have had only three down days so far this year, and they started 2018 with a six-day winning streak.

DOLLAR DOWN: Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin said he's not concerned that the dollar has weakened because when the dollar goes down, it makes U.S. goods less expensive in other markets. That tends to help companies that sell a lot of products overseas, including technology and industrial companies. The ICE US dollar index fell almost 10 percent in 2017 and is down 3 percent so far this year.

Mnuchin said the dollar's strength reflects the performance of the U.S. economy, and it's grown at a faster pace recently. He also downplayed concerns that China plans to cut back on its purchases of U.S. Treasurys.

The dollar dropped to 109.24 yen from 110.30 yen. The euro advanced to $1.2390 from $1.2294.

Gold climbed 1.2 percent to $1,353 an ounce and silver rose 48 cents, or 2.8 percent, to $17.39 an ounce. Investors tend to push up prices for precious metals when they're worried about a weak dollar and the prospect of higher inflation.

HEALTHY, WEALTHY: Infant formula, medical device and drug maker Abbott Laboratories jumped $2.2, or 3.9 percent, to $61.52 after its fourth-quarter results surpassed Wall Street's expectations. That helped health care companies rally. Prescription drug distributor McKesson added $7.08, or 4.2 percent, to $177.68 and drugmaker Gilead Sciences rose 82 cents, or 1 percent, to $81.77.

STUCK ON THE TARMAC: United Continental plunged after it said it's planning more aggressive growth over the next few years. It's aiming to increase its passenger-carrying capacity by 4 to 6 percent a year through 2020. United has done better recently at handling competition with lower-cost carriers, but investors worried that more flights will mean reduced prices and hurt its profits. The stock tumbled $7.64, or 9.8 percent, to $70.33.

SORRY, GEOFFREY: Toys R Us, squeezed by Amazon.com and huge chains like Walmart and saddled with $5 billion in debt, said it will close 20 percent of its U.S. stores starting in February. That means it will close about 180 stores. Toys R Us' woes have hurt the already struggling toy maker Mattel. Mattel fell another 28 cents, or 1.5 percent, to $17.47. It's down 44 percent over the last year.

BONDS: Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.65 percent from 2.62 percent. That helped banks because higher yields let them charge higher interest rates on loans including mortgages. JPMorgan Chase rose $1.55, or 1.4 percent, to $115.76 and Citigroup gained 80 cents, or 1 percent, to $79.35.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude rose 11 cents to $64.58 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, fell 24 cents to $69.72 a barrel in London.

OVERSEAS: France's CAC 40 fell 0.3 percent and Germany's DAX was down 0.2 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 fell 0.7 percent. Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 slipped 0.8 percent while Hong Kong's Hang Seng index rose 0.1 percent. South Korea's Kospi gained 0.1 percent.

(BE)