* Biotechs help lift S&P above milestone 2,000
* Hope for European stimulus lifts financials
* Data on service sector, housing market below forecasts
* Indexes up: Dow 0.51 pct, S&P 0.5 pct, Nasdaq 0.41 pct
(Updates to early afternoon trading, changes byline)
By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, Aug 25 The S&P 500 briefly hurdled
above 2,000 for the first time on Monday, with financials and
biotechnology stocks lifting the benchmark index to a record as
investors make equities their asset of choice.
The significance of the milestone was more psychological
than fundamental, and it represents the high point of a six-year
rally that has boosted retirement accounts for Americans from
Wall Street to Main Street, though the gains have largely
benefited wealthier Americans. On a total-return basis the S&P
500 has more than tripled from its 2009 low hit during the
The day's gains were broad, with each of the 10 primary
sectors on the benchmark S&P index advancing. Advancers were
comfortably outpacing decliners on both the New York Stock
Exchange and Nasdaq.
"Though (S&P 2,000) is a major mile marker and enormous
optical, it is very much in keeping with the general tone of how
the market has behaved over the past few weeks," said Peter
Kenny, chief market strategist at Clearpool Group in New York.
"In other words, it's not as if we are reaching for it, it
feels as though it fits with the narrative of the market's very
broad move higher."
The index has managed to climb despite cautious signals for
the economy, including tepid U.S. growth, a reduction in
stimulus from the Federal Reserve and a simmering conflict
between Ukraine and Russia. In the latest economic data, reads
on both the U.S. services sector and the housing market came in
Biotech stocks, which have recovered from a sharp drop
earlier this year to become a primary driver of recent equity
gains, continued to outperform on Monday. The Nasdaq Biotech
index rose 2.4 percent and is up 8.6 percent for the
InterMune shares surged 35.5 percent to $72.93 to
help lift the sector after it agreed to be acquired by Roche
Holding AG for $8.3 billion in cash, the latest vote of
confidence in a sector that many, including Federal Reserve
Chair Janet Yellen, worry is overvalued.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 86.48 points or
0.51 percent, to 17,087.7, the S&P 500 gained 10.02
points or 0.5 percent, to 1,998.42 and the Nasdaq Composite
added 18.69 points or 0.41 percent, to 4,557.25.
Financial shares were among the strongest of the day, rising
on expectations that Europe may see more aggressive monetary
stimulus. Morgan Stanley, which has heavy exposure to
Europe, rose 3 percent to $34.46 while Goldman Sachs Group Inc
, a Dow component, was up 1.7 percent at $178.50. The S&P
financial sector gained 1 percent.
U.S. stocks have been strong of late. Major indexes closed a
third week of gains Friday, with the Dow and S&P enjoying their
best weeks since April, while the S&P is on track for its
seventh advance in 10 sessions.
Burger King is in talks to acquire Canadian coffee
and doughnut chain Tim Hortons Inc in a deal that would
be structured as a so-called tax inversion transaction to move
Burger King's domicile to Canada, which has lower overall
corporate taxes. Shares of Burger King jumped 21.8 percent to
$33.01 while U.S. shares of Tim Hortons shot up 21.5
percent to $76.37.
(Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by James Dalgleish)