Data lift Wall St, S&P hits another record

By Ryan Vlastelica
June 24, 2014
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange June 23, 2014. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

By Ryan Vlastelica

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. stocks rose on Tuesday, boosted by some strong data while the Nasdaq outperformed thanks to gains in technology and biotech shares.

In the latest signs of improving economic conditions, consumer confidence surged more than expected in June, while May new home sales rose more than anticipated. The housing data built on Monday's similarly bullish read on existing home sales, though a report on home prices was below forecasts.

With the day's gains, the S&P hit another intraday record and is on track for its seventh advance over the past eight sessions. While the Dow remains slightly under its intraday record, it is on track for a record close.

Consumer confidence hit its highest level since January 2008 in June, while new home sales jumped 18.6 percent to a six-year high in May. The PHLX Housing index rose 0.8 percent.

"If the consumer is happy, stocks are happy and people are more comfortable taking on risk," said Jonathan Lewis, chief investment officer at Samson Capital Advisors in New York. "This is a continuation of a trend of stocks finding their footing as data continues to firm."

In another data point, the S&P/Case-Shiller composite index showed single-family home prices rose less than expected in April.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 18.55 points or 0.11 percent, to 16,955.81, the S&P 500 gained 3.95 points or 0.2 percent, to 1,966.56 and the Nasdaq Composite added 28.67 points or 0.66 percent, to 4,397.35.

The Nasdaq is on track for its best day in three weeks, thanks to Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc, the S&P 500's biggest gainer by far, which soared 42 percent to $94.72 in heavy volume to lift the Nasdaq Biotech index 2.1 percent.

Vertex said a combination of drugs designed to treat cystic fibrosis succeeded in improving lung function in a pair of closely watched late-stage clinical trials. Micron Technology Inc also supported the Nasdaq, rising 4.9 percent to $32.79 a day after giving a revenue outlook that exceeded analysts' expectations.

On the downside, Walgreen Co fell 1.9 percent to $72.36 after reporting its third-quarter results.

IntercontinentalExchange Inc was the S&P's biggest decliner, off 3.6 percent to $191.07, after Wells Fargo downgraded the exchange to "market perform" from "outperform."

Investors continued to eye geopolitical tensions in Iraq and Ukraine. German business sentiment weakened more than expected in June as concern grew among companies in Europe's largest economy that tensions in the regions would hurt their business.

(Editing by Bernadette Baum and Nick Zieminski)