* Dow heads for seventh straight week of gains
* Biogen, Gilead lead health-sector gains
* Dow up 0.1 pct, S&P 500 up 0.3 pct, Nasdaq up 0.5 pct
By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, Nov 22 U.S. stocks edged higher on
Friday in the absence of economic data and ahead of a
holiday-shortened week in the United States, a day after the Dow
industrials closed above 16,000 for the first time.
The Dow's record high came on Thursday as data on inflation
and the labor market eased concerns that the Federal Reserve
might be ready to begin scaling back a stimulus program that has
lifted the benchmark S&P 500 more than 26 percent this year.
Friday's modest advance puts the Dow on track to close a
seventh straight week of gains, its longest streak since an
eight-week rally between December 2010 and January 2011.
Dennis Lockhart, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank
of Atlanta, said on CNBC on Friday that reducing the pace of the
central bank's bond-buying program will be on the table at its
December policy meeting. He added that monetary policy is likely
to be very accommodative for some time even after the reduction
process is put into place.
Fred Dickson, chief market strategist at D.A. Davidson &
Co., in Lake Oswego, Oregon, said that "the market has basically
geared itself now, knowing the Fed will be discussing tapering.
Most likely, the timetable remains somewhat indefinite, but the
topic is on the table, and prices have adjusted accordingly.
"In the meantime, $85 billion a month keeps swirling into
investor hands, and some of that finds its way out into the
financial markets, including the stock market," Dickson added.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 19.52 points or
0.12 percent, to 16,029.51. The S&P 500 gained 5.70
points or 0.32 percent, to 1,801.55. The Nasdaq Composite
added 18.847 points or 0.47 percent, to 3,988.002.
If the S&P 500 closes this week in the black, it will match
the seven-week string of gains it recorded to start the year.
U.S. equity markets will be closed on Thursday for the
Thanksgiving holiday. They will be open for half a day next
Health-care sector stocks led Friday's advance, with the
NYSEArca Biotech Index driven higher by a surge in Biogen
Idec. Shares of Biogen shot up 12.7 percent to $284.55
after the company won 10 years of regulatory protection for its
multiple sclerosis drug, Tecfidera, in Europe.
European regulators also recommended approval of a new drug
for hepatitis C treatment from Gilead Sciences and its
shares jumped 4.6 percent to $74.90.
Ariad Pharmaceuticals said European regulators
recommended the continued use of a leukemia drug, Iclusig, whose
U.S. sale was suspended due to safety concerns, pushing the
company's shares up 40.9 percent to $3.93.
Intel fell 5.2 percent to $23.93 and was the
biggest drag on both the Dow and S&P 500 after Wall Street came
away from its investor meeting craving more evidence that the
chipmaker can forge a strong mobile presence to drive up revenue
Shares of Splunk Inc jumped 20.5 percent to $72.18
a day after the data analytics software maker reported
better-than-expected quarterly results and raised its full-year
In the media sector, Charter Communications is
nearing an agreement with banks to raise funds for a bid for
Time Warner Cable, the Wall Street Journal reported,
citing people familiar with the situation. Time Warner Cable
shares rose 8.8 percent to $131.52.
Shares of Ross Stores slumped 5.7 percent to $75.71
a day after the retailer's earnings included a disappointing
outlook for the fourth quarter.
Foot Locker shares rose 4.8 percent to $38.54 after
the retailer posted third-quarter earnings.