* S&P 500 hits record, Nasdaq at 14-year high
* Insurance stocks rise after Humana comments
* Men's Wearhouse raises offer for Jos. A. Bank
* Indexes up: Dow 1.1 pct, S&P 1.2 pct, Nasdaq 1.1 pct
By Ryan Vlastelica
NEW YORK, Feb 24 U.S. stocks jumped 1 percent on
Monday, with the S&P 500 climbing to an all-time high as
optimism over merger activity helped Wall Street erase this
year's early weakness.
Gains were broad, with nine of the 10 S&P 500 sectors up on
the day and a number of bellwethers, including Caterpillar Inc
and Merck & Co, hitting 52-week highs.
With the day's gains, the S&P 500 turned positive for the
year while the Nasdaq hit a 14-year high. More than two-thirds
of companies traded on the New York Stock Exchange rose on the
day, while 63 percent of Nasdaq-listed companies gained.
"People are recognizing that while some economic data has
been muted, there is still a lot of value in the market based on
corporate cash positions and multiples. From a perspective of
overall fundamentals, things look pretty good, especially
relative to other asset classes," said Matthew Keator, partner
in the Keator Group, a wealth management firm in Lenox,
RF Micro Devices Inc agreed to buy TriQuint
Semiconductor Inc for about $1.6 billion, while Men's
Wearhouse Inc raised its cash tender offer for rival
men's clothing retailer Jos. A. Bank Clothiers Inc to
$63.50 per share from $57.50.
Shares of RF climbed 16 percent to $6.77 while TriQuint
gained 22 percent to $11.25. Men's Wearhouse rose 7.2 percent to
$48.38 while Jos. A. Bank was up 8.4 percent at $59.65.
Humana Inc and UnitedHealth Group were both
among the S&P's biggest percentage gainers, with Humana up 8.2
percent to $111.24 after it said the government's proposed cuts
to the private Medicare program appeared to be less than it had
forecast. UnitedHealth rose 3 percent to $75.99.
Aetna Inc rose 2.4 percent to $72.14 after giving a
2014 earnings outlook.
The Dow Jones industrial average was up 181.61
points, or 1.13 percent, at 16,284.91. The Standard & Poor's 500
Index was up 21.09 points, or 1.15 percent, at 1,857.34.
The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 45.62 points, or 1.07
percent, at 4,309.03.
Despite the day's gains, many investors were concerned that
markets were becoming over-valued as recent economic data failed
to meet expectations, though the weak data has largely been
blamed on harsh winter weather rather than worsening
"Seeing merger activity is a good sign for a continued
growth market, but we've started to taper back our domestic
holdings in favor of international markets which seem cheaper
given the S&P's (price-to-earnings ratio)," said Paul Radeke,
vice president at the Minneapolis-based KDV Wealth Management,
which has about $660 million in assets under management.
Overseas markets remained in focus after Ukrainian President
Viktor Yanukovich was ousted following deadly street protests,
leaving a potential power vacuum and an ailing economy.
Ukraine's finance ministry said the economy required $35 billion
in foreign aid over the next two years, with the first tranche
needed within two weeks.
While most U.S. companies have limited direct exposure to
Ukraine, investors worry that the instability in the region
could spread throughout emerging markets.
In the latest U.S. data, the Chicago Fed National Activity
index fell to -0.39 in January from 0.16 in December while
financial data firm Markit's preliminary February read on the
services sector fell to 52.7 from 56.7.
Pfizer Inc shares rose 1.7 percent to $31.98 after
the company said that its drug Prevenar 13 prevented
community-acquired pneumonia in individuals age 65 and older in
Many traders are looking ahead to Thursday, when Federal
Reserve Chair Janet Yellen will speak to the Senate Banking
Committee in her semi-annual testimony about monetary policy.
Yellen's comments will be scoured for insight into the
extent to which bad weather has impacted economic activity, as
well as for confirmation that the Fed will not make any changes
to its schedule for trimming stimulus.