Wall Street rises as Syria fears ease; healthcare stocks jump

(Reuters) - U.S. stocks rose on Monday, boosted by healthcare stocks and on easing fears that the recent U.S.-led missile attack on Syria would escalate into a broader conflict.

Merck <MRK.N> rose 2.5 percent after the company presented positive data on its cancer drug Keytruda, driving a 0.7 percent gain in the healthcare index <.SPXHC>.

The market appeared less concerned about possible retaliation from the air strikes, which marked the biggest intervention by Western countries against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his ally Russia.

"The action was well-received ... and that's giving a chance for investors to focus on macro news and earnings," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Spartan Capital Securities in New York.

Attention turned to what is expected to be a robust first-quarter earnings season.

Shares of JB Hunt Transport Services <JBHT.O> jumped 7 percent after the trucking company's profit topped estimates.

But Bank of America <BAC.N> edged lower despite reporting a better-than-expected increase in quarterly profit.

"People are optimistic in the earnings season ... but there are a lot of forces working in the market - technicals, earnings and geopolitics, which is the biggest wild card," said J.J. Feldman, portfolio manager at Los Angeles-based Miracle Mile Advisors.

At 11:10 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average <.DJI> was up 0.82 percent at 24,560.96. The S&P 500 <.SPX> gained 0.65 percent to 2,673.6 and the Nasdaq Composite <.IXIC> rose 0.4 percent at 7,135.34.

All the 11 major S&P sectors were higher, with a 1.2 percent gain in the utilities index <.SPLRCU> leading the gainers.

Shares of optical components makers Acacia Communications <ACIA.O>, Oclaro <OCLR.O>, Lumentum <LITE.O> and Finisar <FNSR.O> took a beating after Reuters reported that the U.S. government was banning American companies from selling components to Chinese telecom equipment maker ZTE Corp <0000063.SZ> <0763.HK>.

Netflix <NFLX.O> fell more than 2 percent. The company is expected to reports results after the closing bell on Monday.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE for a 2.90-to-1 ratio. On the Nasdaq, a 1.71-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

(Reporting by Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva)

04/16/2018 12:04

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