Stocks move higher; ConAgra Foods jumps on spinoff news

AP News
Posted: Nov 18, 2015 2:34 PM
Stocks move higher; ConAgra Foods jumps on spinoff news

U.S. stocks veered higher in afternoon trading Wednesday after investors got a look at the minutes from the Federal Reserve's last meeting of policymakers. The minutes show Fed officials believed that the economy could improve enough by December for the central bank to begin raising interest rates for the first time in a nearly a decade.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average rose 160 points, or 0.9 percent, to 17,650 as of 2:29 p.m. Eastern Time. The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 20 points, or 1 percent, to 2,070. The gain moved the S&P 500 back into positive territory for the year. The Nasdaq composite added 59 points, or 1.2 percent, to 5,045.

FED WATCH: The minutes of the October meeting revealed that Fed officials believed the U.S. job market would improve further and that inflation would begin to move toward their 2 percent annual target by the time the Fed meets next month. They also took note of the U.S. economy's resilience through a summer of financial market turbulence and felt that global threats had "diminished." The Fed has kept its benchmark for short-term rates near zero since late 2008. Higher rates tend to weigh on stock markets, but investors have mostly become prepared for the Fed to act in December.

SECTOR VIEW: Nine of the 10 sectors in the S&P 500 rose, led by health care stocks. Telecommunications services declined.

SPINOFF: ConAgra Foods climbed 4 percent after announcing that it would spin off its frozen potatoes business. The stock added $1.57 to $40.93.

BEING COURTED: Norfolk Southern rose 6 percent after receiving an unsolicited offer to be bought out by Canadian Pacific. The stock gained $5.22 to $92.19.

TASTY RESULTS: Jack in the Box climbed 5.6 percent after the burger chain gave an upbeat 2016 profit outlook. The stock added $3.95 to $73.94.

OFF TARGET: Target slumped 4.3 percent after the retailer reported that its sales at established locations increased in the third quarter at a slower rate than in the previous quarter. The stock shed $3.14 to $69.77.

CONFRONTING COSTS: Citrix Systems slid 9.2 percent on news that the computing company will slash about 1,000 jobs and spin off its GoTo business into a separate company as it seeks to cut costs. The stock fell $7.20 to $71.22.

CONSTRUCTION SLOWS: The Commerce Department's latest tally of home construction showed that builders broke ground on fewer houses and apartments in October. A steep drop in apartment construction contributed to the 11 percent slide in housing starts. Single-family house construction declined 2.4 percent.

MARKETS OVERSEAS: Europe markets ended mixed. Germany's DAX dipped 0.1 percent, while France's CAC-40 lost 0.6 percent. The FTSE 100 edged up 0.2 percent. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 gained 0.1 percent, the Shanghai Composite Index fell 1 percent and Seoul's Kospi was unchanged. Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 0.3 percent.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude rose 8 cents to $40.75 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It briefly dipped below $40 a barrel for the first time since August. Brent crude, used to price international oils, rose 56 cents to $44.13 a barrel in London.

METALS: Precious and industrial metals prices were mixed. Gold rose 10 cents to $1,068.70 an ounce, silver declined nine cents to $14.08 an ounce and copper gave up three cents to close at $2.08 a pound.

BONDS & CURRENCIES: Bond prices held steady. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note was little changed at 2.26 percent. The dollar rose to 123.51 yen from Tuesday's 123.57 yen. The euro fell to $1.0643 from $1.0643.