- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 18, 2001

NEW YORK (AP) Viewing acquisitions by Amgen and Vivendi as signs that the tough business environment may be turning around, investors bid stocks higher yesterday.
Wall Street especially welcomed the positive prospects after 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. Yesterday's upturn was more akin with the market's increasingly upbeat attitude and with how investors have been buying on hopes that the economy will recover in 2002.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished up 80.82, or 0.8 percent, at 9,891.97, after ending last week down 238, or 2.4 percent.
The market's broader stock indicators also advanced. The technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index rose 34.28, or 1.8 percent, to 1,987.45. The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 11.29, or 1.0 percent, to 1,134.36. The Russell 2000 index, the barometer of small-company stocks, rose 8.65, or 1.8 percent, to 479.94.
"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 yesterday 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 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 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 September 11 attacks, moving much higher has proven to be a challenge.
Advancing stocks led decliners slightly more than 8 to 7 on the New York Stock Exchange. Consolidated volume totaled 1.57 billion shares. compared with 1.64 billion Friday.

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