Stocks Hit 5-Year High on M&A Deals
NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Major U.S. stock averages rose Tuesday, with the benchmark S&P 500 hitting a five-year high, as investor sentiment improved on yet another set of deals headlines, this time about a possible merger of OfficeMax(OMX) and Office Depot(ODP) .
Investors remained concerned, however, as the U.S. sequestration deadline loomed. There are now less than two weeks left before the next fiscal cliff of automatic spending cuts kicks in March 1.
President Barack Obama on Tuesday urged Congress to find a way to avert the sequester, emphasizing the negative effect it could have on the economy and job creation.
"If Congress allows this meat-cleaver approach to take place, it will jeopardize our military readiness, it will eviscerate job creating investments, and education, and energy, and medical research ... it doesn't make those distinctions," he said.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up 54 points, or 0.4%, to 14,036. The blue-chip index began the session up nearly 7% so far in 2013.
UnitedHealth shares shed 1.1% and Humana(HUM) plunged 6.4% as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services proposed worse-than-expected 2014 Medicare Advantage rates.
Most sectors in the broader market, with the exception of basic materials, climbed higher, led by conglomerates, consumer non-cyclicals, energy and utilities.
Volumes totaled 3.72 billion shares on the New York Stock Exchange and 1.84 billion shares on the Nasdaq. Advancers were outpacing declines by a ratio of 2.2-to-1 on the Big Board and 2.1-to-1 on the Nasdaq.