US stocks jump on deals despite earnings doubts

GMT 23:50 2015 Friday ,10 April

Arab Today, arab today US stocks jump on deals despite earnings doubts

Traders work at Nasdaq MarketSite in New York
New York - AFP

A surge in corporate dealmaking helped lift US stocks this week, with General Electric, Royal Dutch Shell and FedEx all unveiling major transactions.

The wave of mergers and acquisitions offset investor wariness as earnings season got underway to low expectations.

For the week, the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 244.41 points (1.66 percent) to 18,057.65.

The broad-based S&P 500 rose 35.10 (1.70 percent) to 2,102.06, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index jumped 109.04 (2.23 percent) to 4,995.98.

The throng of deals means it is "dangerous not to be in stocks right" because of the risk of missing a takeover with a fat premium, said Mace Blicksilver, director of Marblehead Asset Management.

"There's this jockeying going on to find out who's going to be the next target, and it's across all sectors," he added.

Some analysts think energy companies could be especially aggressive deal-makers after Shell announced it would buy the BG Group for $70 billion.

The thinking is that the sector could see another wave of activity comparable to the late 1990s when Exxon bought Mobil, Chevron acquired Texaco and BP took over Amoco. Oil prices have fallen about 50 percent since June.

Pharmaceuticals also remain active. In the latest big campaign in the sector, Mylan offered $28.9 billion for Perrigo, in a move that would combine two companies that have themselves grown by acquisition. Analysts consider both Mylan and Perrigo as takeover targets themselves.

GE announced Friday it was selling $26.5 billion in real estate assets immediately as part a restructuring to sell most of the $500 billion in assets of GE Capital over the next two years.

Earlier in the week, US delivery service FedEx said it would buy Dutch rival TNT Express for 4.4 billion euros ($4.8 billion) in a big bet on Europe. FedEx chief executive Frederick Smith cited the strong dollar as a factor in the deal.

- Earnings outlook weak -

The gains in US stocks came in parallel with a strong week for European and Japanese stocks. Analysts attribute the moves overseas to aggressive monetary policies in Japan and the eurozone that have driven down their currencies and raised the competitiveness of their manufactured goods.

On Friday, equity markets in Germany and Britain hit all-time highs while the French CAC rocketed to a seven-year peak. Similarly, Japan's Nikkei 225 has also been on a strong run, hitting 20,000 Friday before retreating.

Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank, predicted investors would pump more money into overseas equities in the coming months, especially if the upcoming US earnings season is a bust.

"The market is trading at a premium relative its history and we'll have to see if the earnings justify the valuations," Ablin said of US stocks.

Corporate news will remain in focus next week, with earnings reports from large financials, such as JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs, and several other large companies, including GE, Intel and Netflix.

Expectations are low. Companies in the S&P 500 are expected to report an average earnings decline of 3.2 percent, with the biggest hit in energy, which is projected to report a 64 percent drop.

The US economic calendar includes retail sales, industrial production and housing starts for March. The International Monetary Fund and World Bank hold their annual spring meetings in Washington, before which the IMF will release its world economic growth projections.

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