By Caroline Valetkevitch
NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. stocks rose on Tuesday, boosted by upbeat results from companies including Merck & Co and a rebound in Facebook and other high-growth shares.
Merck & Co's shares climbed 3.6 percent to $58.72, giving the S&P 500 its biggest lift, after it reported stronger-than-expected earnings.
Further deal activity on the healthcare front also lifted the market, with Britain's Reckitt Benckiser Group Plc confirming talks to buy Merck's consumer health business, the latest asset up for grabs in a wave of recent pharmaceutical deals.
"Investors are viewing (that activity) as a signal for positive conditions in which businesses are willing and able to offer substantial sums of cash and/or stocks," said Mark Luschini, chief investment strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott in Philadelphia.
Also supportive: the majority of S&P 500 companies are beating earnings forecasts, albeit on lowered expectations, he said.
Earnings estimates have rebounded, however, as more companies have reported results. First-quarter profit growth for S&P 500 companies is seen at 3.7 percent, based on actual results and estimates for companies yet to report, compared with a forecast for 2.1 percent growth at the beginning of the month, Thomson Reuters data showed.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 86.63 points or 0.53 percent, to 16,535.37, the S&P 500 gained 8.9 points or 0.48 percent, to 1,878.33 and the Nasdaq Composite added 29.142 points or 0.72 percent, to 4,103.543.
Shares of Facebook, up 3.6 percent at $58.15, led the way higher on the Nasdaq, a day after selling off along with a host of other momentum names.
Shares of Twitter jumped 4.6 percent to $42.62 ahead of its results after the bell, when it reported 255 million monthly active users, up from the previous quarter but not enough to satisfy investors. The stock was last down 8.6 percent.
During the regular session, Sprint Corp shares jumped 11.3 percent to $8.27. The No. 3 U.S. mobile provider reported an increase in quarterly revenue, as expected, due to a new billing plan that lowered wireless expenses.
On the down side, Coach Inc reported a sharp drop in North American sales and the stock slumped 9.3 percent to $45.71.
Archer Daniels Midland Co finished down 2.6 percent at $43.23 after its first-quarter profit and sales missed Wall Street estimates.
About 6.3 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, below the 6.6 billion average this month, according to data from BATS Global Markets.
The Fed's two-day policy meeting began on Tuesday, with the central bank expected to again scale back its monthly bond purchase program. Investors will also be eager to get any guidance on when it might raise interest rates.
Data suggested the economy continued to gain momentum after the winter lull. U.S. consumer confidence dipped in April but remained near a six-year high, while home prices rose in February.
(Additional reporting by Angela Moon; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Nick Zieminski)