* Biotech shares rise, rebounding after recent losses
* Consumer confidence hits six-year high in March
* Walgreen, McCormick shares rally after results
* Indexes up: Dow 0.6 pct, S&P 0.5 pct, Nasdaq 0.7 pct
(Updates to open, adds analyst comment and data)
By Ryan Vlastelica
NEW YORK, March 25 U.S. stocks rose on Tuesday
as many of the market's biggest trading favorites regained their
momentum and a strong read on consumer confidence boosted
optimism about economic conditions.
Consumer confidence rose more than expected in March,
climbing to its highest level since January 2008. The report was
the latest in a string of positive reads on the economy that
supported theories that softness early this year was related to
bad weather and not weakening fundamentals.
Investors continued to watch global issues cautiously. On
Monday, major indexes fell on concerns that the crisis in
Ukraine could escalate, pushing traders to take profits in such
high-flying sectors as biotech and Internet shares. Those names
rebounded on Tuesday, with some of Monday's biggest decliners
topping the list of advancing S&P 500 names.
Biotech shares snapped a four-day losing streak to
rise 1.7 percent. Alexion Pharma rose 2.4 percent to
$153.29, while Regeneron Pharma was up 2 percent at
$312.41. Among Internet names, which have also been hit by
accusations that they are overpriced, Facebook Inc added
2.1 percent to $64.97.
The rebound in some so-called "momentum" names was an
indication that while concerns persist about geopolitical
tensions in Ukraine and slowing growth in China, investors are
not so bearish on equities as to sell them wholesale. The CBOE
Volatility Index, a gauge of investor anxiety, fell 5.6
percent and remains at historically low levels.
"Investors become momentarily concerned about valuation, but
that pullback was healthy, and we could see modest gains from
here just because equities remain the most attractive place to
be," said Kristina Hooper, head of portfolio strategies at
Allianz Global Investors in New York, which has $475 billion in
assets under management.
"Biotechs continue to look attractive since they offer a
higher level of growth, and in face they look more attractive
than they did because valuations improved in the selloff."
McCormick & Co and Walgreen Co were the S&P
500's two biggest gainers after reporting quarterly results.
Both posted sales increases, but Walgreen said a slowdown in the
introduction of higher-profit generic medicines cut into its
gross profit margin.
McCormick rose 5.7 percent to $71.43 while Walgreen added
4.5 percent to $67.24.
The Dow Jones industrial average was up 94.93 points,
or 0.58 percent, at 16,371.62. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index
was up 9.83 points, or 0.53 percent, at 1,867.27. The
Nasdaq Composite Index was up 31.33 points, or 0.74
percent, at 4,257.71.
The conflict over Ukraine continued with leaders of the
Group of Seven nations warning Russia it faced further sanctions
if Russian President Vladimir Putin took further action to
destabilize Ukraine following the seizure of Crimea.
While few U.S. companies have direct exposure to the region,
market participants are concerned about the fallout from any
escalation in what is already the biggest confrontation between
the United States and Russia since the Cold War.
Investors also continued to look to China, with expectations
growing that the government would intervene to support its
economy following a series of economic reports that imply the
weakest growth in China since the global financial crisis.
In the latest on the housing market, U.S. single-family home
prices rose slightly more than expected in January, according to
the S&P/Case-Shiller composite index of 20 metropolitan areas,
while new home sales fell more than expected in February.
In company news, Walt Disney Co agreed to buy Maker
Studios, one of YouTube's largest networks, for $500 million,
though the price tag could rise to $950 million if the company
hits certain performance milestones. Shares of the Dow component
dipped 0.3 percent to $79.25.
Shares of Carnival Corp slumped 3.4 percent to
$38.65 as the S&P 500's biggest decliner after the cruise
operator warned that it might post a loss in its current
(Editing by Nick Zieminski)