* 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 session. The S&P 500 finished
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 economic data has largely been blamed on harsh winter
weather, which has kept investors hopeful that the economy's
recovery 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 from 56.7.
"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.
The Dow Jones Transportation Average, whose
components include package-shipping companies like FedEx
and United Parcel Service, rose 0.4 percent.
In the deal arena, chipmaker RF Micro Devices Inc
agreed to buy TriQuint Semiconductor Inc for about $1.6
billion. 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.
Helping lift the Nasdaq, shares of eBay rose 3.1
percent to $56.30 as billionaire investor Carl Icahn called
again for the spinoff of eBay's fast-growing PayPal payments
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.
After the bell, shares of Tenet Healthcare declined
3.8 percent to $46.50 following the release of its results.
About 7.1 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges,
just above 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.