GLOBAL MARKETS-Health insurers lift U.S. stocks; commodities slide

Tue Apr 2, 2013 4:26pm EDT

* S&P 500 index still shy of all-time intraday high
    * Safe-haven Treasuries, gold fall; copper hits 7-month low
    * ECB, BOJ meet later this week; U.S. jobs report also due

    By Wanfeng Zhou
    NEW YORK, April 2 (Reuters) - Major stock markets rose on
Tuesday, with the U.S. S&P 500 index nearing its all-time high,
while the dollar rallied from a one-month low against the yen on
bets the Bank of Japan will announce further monetary easing
this week.
    Gold fell to a 2-1/2-week low, pressured by the
strengthening dollar and as investors moved away from safe
havens and bought stocks. Other commodities also retreated, with
copper falling to a seven-month low on worries about global
economic growth.
    Investors looked toward policy meetings this week of the
Bank of Japan and the European Central Bank, along with the U.S.
government's release on Friday of its payrolls report for March.
    On Wall Street, stocks rebounded after declining on Monday.
Healthcare shares surged on brighter earnings prospects as the
U.S. government dropped plans to decrease payments for private
Medicare Advantage insurers, opting instead to raise them by 3.3
percent. 
    "Given how lean these companies are, this news is pretty
significant and could mean a 10 to 15 percent increase in
earnings," said Phil Orlando, chief equity market strategist at
Federated Investors in New York.
     News that Cyprus concluded bailout talks added to the
gains. 
    The Dow Jones industrial average gained 89.16 points,
or 0.61 percent, to 14,662.01. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index
 rose 8.08 points, or 0.52 percent, to 1,570.25. The
Nasdaq Composite Index added 15.69 points, or 0.48
percent, to 3,254.86. 
    The S&P 500 set an all-time closing high last week, but has
stayed shy of its intraday record of 1,576.09.
    European shares rallied after a two-week slide, boosted by
Vodafone on rumours of a multi-billion-pound break-up bid for
the UK telecoms group. Europe's FTSEurofirst 300 index 
gained 1.3 percent to end at 1203.79 points.
    The broad MSCI world equity index rose 0.4
percent to 359.84 points.
    The dollar rose 0.2 percent to 93.39 yen. The BoJ
begins a two-day meeting on Wednesday and is widely expected to
ramp up its bond buying and to extend the maturities of the
bonds it purchases under its new governor, Haruhiko Kuroda.
 
    The euro fell 0.2 percent to $1.2816 after Markit's
Eurozone Manufacturing PMI fell in March to 46.8 from 47.9 in
February, the 20th straight month that the index has come in
below the 50 mark that separates growth and contraction.
    The data boosted expectations that European Central Bank
President Mario Draghi will strike a more dovish tone at the
ECB's monetary policy outlook meeting on Thursday and could
provide hints about a possible rate cut.
    "We expect euro zone fundamentals to deteriorate further.
This, combined with outflow pressures, should keep the euro's
downward trend intact," said Camilla Sutton, chief currency
strategist at Scotiabank in Toronto.
    
   
    
    COMMODITIES RETREAT 
    Spot gold hit an intraday high of $1,603.60 an ounce
before falling to $1,575 an ounce, down from $1,598.40 on
Monday. It hit an intraday low of $1,573.39, its lowest price
since March 8.
    "The hot money is going toward the S&P 500 right now," said
Jeffrey Sica, chief investment officer of SICA Wealth
Management, which oversees more than $1 billion in assets. 
    "There is an overwhelming sentiment that growth will remain
slow and not inflationary, and that has eliminated some of the
momentum investors in gold," Sica said. 
    Benchmark copper on the London Metal Exchange hit a session
low of $7,439 a tonne, its weakest since Aug. 21, and closed at
$7,465 a tonne. Disappointing manufacturing data from the euro
zone, the United States and China stoked demand worries for the
metal, which is used in power and construction.
    Silver dropped almost 3 percent to an eight-month
low, and platinum group metals declined sharply.
    Oil prices declined as ample supplies and concerns over the
pace of economic recoveries in the United States and Europe
outweighed the prospect of stronger demand in Asia.
    Brent slid 39 cents to settle at $110.69 a barrel.
U.S. crude  rose 12 cents to settle at $97.19 a barrel.
    Safe-haven government debt prices also declined. Benchmark
10-year Treasury notes were down 8/32, their yields
rising to 1.862 percent from 1.84 percent on Monday. German Bund
futures also fell.
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