Vivendi, Amgen deals pull stocks higher Monday

Monday, December 17, 2001

AP Business Writer

NEW YORK (AP) -- Acquisitions by Amgen and Vivendi boosted stock prices Monday, as Wall Street interpreted the deals as signs the business environment is improving.

Wall Street especially welcomed the positive prospects following last week's selling amid a litany of bad news, which included profit warnings from such companies as Merck and Ciena and thousands of layoffs by American Express and Aetna.

The Dow Jones industrial average finished up 80.82, or 0.8 percent, at 9,891.97, according to preliminary calculations.

The market's broader stock indicators also advanced. The technology-heavy Nasdaq composite index rose 34.27, or 1.8 percent, to 1,987.44. The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 11.29, or 1.0 percent, to 1,134.36.

"The deals we've seen announced on the tape today are probably one of the reasons that optimism is prevailing," said Charles G. Crane, strategist for Victory SBSF Capital Management. "People are thinking if corporate managers think stocks are cheap, maybe we ought to be buying."

Biotech giant Amgen rose $3.46 to $59.49 on news Monday it was buying rival Immunex in a $16 billion stock and cash deal that should make its drug lineup more competitive. Immunex shot up $3.44, or 13.4 percent, at $29.06.

French media company Vivendi's U.S. shares advanced $3.15 to $52.10 after it announced it would acquire USA Networks' entertainment assets for $10.3 billion to improve its U.S. distribution. USA advanced $1.20 to $25.02.

The buying spread to other stocks, particularly in the technology sector, which many investors expect will eventually lead the market higher. Microsoft rose $1.54 to $68.98, Juniper Networks gained 84 cents to $21.09 and Ciena climbed 65 cents to $14.91.

Still, some analysts caution investors against putting too much of their hopes or their dollars in tech, saying the sector is still struggling with slumping demand and excessive inventories.

"Tech is still in a cleansing process. There are still too many companies doing the same thing, too many competitors," said Brian Belski, fundamental market strategist for US Bancorp Piper Jaffray.

Among non-technology issues, Wal-Mart rose $1.79 to $55.85, while American Express advanced 89 cents to $33.15.

The market's gains came after a recent retreat from key benchmarks reached earlier this month: 10,000 on the Dow, and above 2,000 on the Nasdaq. Although stocks have rebounded from the precipitous losses that followed the Sept. 11 attacks, moving much higher has proven to be a challenge.

While the Federal Reserve has cut interest rates 11 times this year and predictions of a 2002 turnaround are growing, many investors still hesitate to commit too much to the market. After getting repeatedly burned by fleeting rallies, they're waiting for more definite signs of a business recovery.

Advancing stocks led decliners slightly more than 8 to 7 on the New York Stock Exchange. Volume totaled 1.23 billion shares, the same number that were traded Friday.

The Russell 2000 index, the barometer of small company stocks, rose 8.65, or 1.8 percent, to 479.94.

Overseas, Japan's Nikkei stock average lost 1.8 percent. European stocks fared better. Germany's DAX index rose 3.2 percent, Britain's FT-SE 100 advanced 1.5 percent, and France's CAC-40 climbed 3.3 percent.

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