* S&P 500 hits intraday record; Nasdaq climbs to 14-year
* Insurance stocks rise after Humana comments
* Men's Wearhouse raises offer for Jos. A. Bank
* Dow up 0.6 pct; S&P 500 up 0.6 pct; Nasdaq up 0.7 pct
By Caroline Valetkevitch
NEW YORK, Feb 24 U.S. stocks rose on Monday and
the S&P 500 hit a record intraday high, helped by gains in
health insurers' shares and optimism about merger activity.
The Nasdaq reached a 14-year high, though all three indexes
closed off their highs for the day, with the S&P 500 finishing
less than a point away from its record closing high of 1,848.38.
Humana Inc and UnitedHealth Group ranked
among the S&P 500's biggest percentage gainers, with Humana's
stock jumping 10.6 percent to $113.69 after it said the
government's proposed cuts to the private Medicare program
appeared to be less than it had forecast. UnitedHealth shares
rose 3 percent to $76.01.
Aetna Inc rose 2 percent to close at $71.80 after
giving a 2014 earnings outlook.
Weak recent economic data has largely been blamed on harsh
winter weather, which has kept investors hopeful that the pickup
in the economy remains intact. The latest data showed 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 reading on the services sector fell to 52.7
"There's still a lot of hope right now (that) the slightly
weaker (economic) numbers we've been seeing are weather-
related," said Bryant Evans, portfolio manager at Cozad Asset
Management, in Champaign, Illinois.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 103.84 points
or 0.64 percent, to close at 16,207.14. The S&P 500
gained 11.36 points or 0.62 percent, to end at 1,847.61, after
rising to an intraday record of 1,858.71.
The Nasdaq Composite added 29.558 points or 0.69
percent, to finish at 4,292.968.
The S&P 500 broke above resistance at 1,841, which
propelled further gains, said Mark Luschini, chief investment
strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott in Philadelphia.
In the deal arena, 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 Micro shot up 21 percent to $7.03 while
TriQuint's stock surged 26.1 percent to $11.64.
Men's Wearhouse shares jumped 7.5 percent to $48.51 while
Jos. A. Bank's stock soared 9.1 percent to close at $60.04.
Adding some support was news that Ukrainian President Viktor
Yanukovich was ousted. While that leaves a
potential power vacuum and an ailing economy, it calmed some
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 affected economic activity, as
well as for confirmation that the Fed will not make any changes
to its schedule for trimming stimulus.
About 6.8 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges,
below the 7 billion average so far this month, according to data
from BATS Global Markets.
Advancers beat decliners on the New York Stock Exchange by a
ratio of about 1.6 to 1 and on the Nasdaq by about 1.8 to 1.