Tech and Drugmakers Lead Stocks Up

NEW YORK (AP) -- U.S. stocks are climbing Thursday as health care companies including Biogen and Celgene rise and chipmakers and other technology companies bounce back from their losses a day ago. Airlines continue to take steep losses as investors worry about rising costs and the possibility of falling fares. The dollar is weakening further. The U.S. currency remains at three-year lows.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 6 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,844 as of 12:40 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 166 points, or 0.6 percent, to 26,418. The Nasdaq composite gained 20 points, or 0.3 percent, to 7,435. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks was little changed at 1,599.

CHIP CHEERS: Technology companies rose. The gainers included Microsoft, which added $1.18, or 1.3 percent, to $93, and Facebook, which rose $1.43 to $187.98.

Some chipmakers recovered after their sharp losses from the day before. Nvidia picked up $2.89, or 1.2 percent, to $238.69 and Micron Technology climbed 86 cents, or 2 percent, to $43.94. Chipmakers dropped on Wednesday after Texas Instruments gave a weak forecast that left investors concerned about slower growth for the industry. The Nasdaq went through its worst loss in about four weeks.

PRESCRIPTION POWER: Biotech drugmakers continued to do well. Biogen's profit and sales were better than analysts expected, and its profit forecast also surpassed Wall Street's estimates. The biotechnology company's stock picked up $6.97, or 2 percent, to $353.47, while cancer drug maker Celgene added $1.53, or 1.5 percent, to $104.64. The Nasdaq biotechnology index has climbed 9 percent so far this year.

BUMPY LANDINGS: Airlines also continued to decline as they reported their quarterly results: Alaska Airlines lost $4.64, or 7.2 percent, to $60.05 and Southwest shed $1.61, or 2.6 percent, to $60.60 and American Airlines sank $1.06, or 1.9 percent, to $53.73. They took even bigger losses Wednesday after United Continental sent shivers through the industry by saying it plans to add passenger capacity at a faster pace over the next few years. That could increase the chances of a glut of flights and lower fares. Airlines are also dealing with higher fuel expenses as the price of oil rises and higher labor costs.

Other transportation companies also fell. Railroad operator Union Pacific fell $7.89, or 5.6 percent, to $133.30 after its profit disappointed Wall Street.

UNGLUED: Newell Brands, which makes Sharpie pens and Elmer's glue, plunged to its lowest price in almost five years after it said it will consider selling numerous businesses including Rubbermaid, sports equipment brand Rawlings and haircare products maker Goody. That's a sharp change in direction for Newell, which less than two years ago paid $13 billion to buy Rubbermaid and brands including Yankee Candle.

Newell also said its 2017 results will be weaker than it had expected, and it already cut its forecasts just two months ago. It also said three directors resigned from its board. The stock plunged $7.05, or 22.6 percent, to $24.18.

HOME WRECKED? Homebuilders sank after the Commerce Department said sales of new homes dropped more than 9 percent in December, partly because of severely cold weather. Analysts expected a smaller decline. NVR sank $235.20, or 6.6 percent, to $3,352, while Lennar fell $2.07, or 2.9 percent, to $68.75 and KB Home gave up $1.11, or 3.2 percent, to $33.44.

BONDS: Bond prices turned higher. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.64 percent from 2.65 percent. The yield on the 2-year note stayed at 2.09 percent.

The European Central Bank didn't make any changes to its stimulus programs. ECB head Mario Draghi said the eurozone economy still needs support to keep raising the rate of inflation toward healthier levels. It will continue to buy 30 billion euros ($36 billion) in bonds per month until at least September.

CURRENCIES: The dollar slipped to 108.74 yen from 109.05 yen. The euro rose to $1.2489 from $1.2405. The dollar has fallen to three-year lows and skidded on Wednesday following comments by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who said the weaker dollar is good for U.S. exporters. While the decline in the dollar has helped the sales and profits of technology and industrial companies and other firms that export a lot of goods from the U.S., it has hurt smaller and more U.S.-focused companies, which have not done as well as the rest of the stock market over the last year.

The U.S. economy has grown at a faster pace in the last few quarters, and usually the dollar gets stronger when economic growth picks up. But the economies of many other countries are growing at a faster pace, which has made currencies like the euro stronger compared to the dollar.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude rose 36 cents to $65.98 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, gained 41 cents to $70.94 per barrel in London.

OVERSEAS: Germany's DAX lost 0.9 percent and the British FTSE 100 fell 0.4 percent. The CAC 40 in France dipped 0.3 percent. Japan's Nikkei 225 sank 1.1 percent while Hong Kong's Hang Seng slipped 0.9 percent. South Korea's Kospi surged 1 percent.

(BE)