Indexes jump with another Wall Street rally
Health care and financial stocks led another milestone-setting rally on Wall Street Wednesday, extending the market’s gains for the week. The Dow Jones industrial average climbed more than 480 points and the S&P 500 index and Nasdaq composite each hit an all-time high. The latest gains came as another batch of solid corporate earnings reports and encouraging economic data overshadowed concerns about the potential economic fallout from the virus outbreak that originated in China. The S&P 500 index rose 37.10 points, or 1.1%, to 3,334.69. The Dow climbed 483.22 points, or 1.7%, to 29,290.85. The average briefly climbed above 500 points. The Nasdaq gained 40.71 points, or 0.4%, to 9,508.68. The index, which is heavily weighted with technology stocks, also notched a record high on Tuesday. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks picked up 25.15 points, or 1.5%, to 1,681.92. Benchmark crude oil rose $1.14 to settle at $50.75 a barrel.
Spanish hotel chain CEO hit with U.S. ban
A major Spanish hotel chain said Wednesday that the U.S. State Department informed the CEO he is barred from entering the United States because of his company’s business interests in Cuba. Meliá Hotels International S.A. said in a statement it believes more than 50 other companies have received similar notifications, but didn’t name any. Meliá CEO and vice president Gabriel Escarrer received notice of the U.S. ban in October, the company statement said. Spanish media reported on the prohibition for the first time Wednesday, and the company issued the statement shortly afterward. Meliá said the notification was linked to provisions of the 1996 Helms-Burton Act, which among other things allows Americans to sue companies deemed to be “trafficking” in property confiscated by Cuba’s government after the country’s 1959 revolution. The Trump administration last year activated a provision of the U.S. embargo on Cuba which every president since the law’s passage had suspended because of objections from U.S. allies doing business in Cuba. Its activation was widely expected to trigger lawsuits, along with trade fights between the U.S. and countries including Spain, France and Britain.
Merck to spin off women’s health division
Drugmaker Merck beat Wall Street’s fourth-quarter profit expectations, but investors weren’t as happy with the biggest move Merck’s made in years: deciding to spin off its women’s health division and other operations with $6.5 billion in annual revenue. The maker of cancer blockbuster Keytruda announced the plan along with its quarterly results, saying the two resulting companies each would be able to grow faster and develop more new medicines, benefiting patients. But investors sold off shares in heavy trading early Wednesday, pushing their price down more than 4% initially. The maneuver culminates a steady shift of Merck’s business the past several years from a primary-care drugmaker with more than 160 products, to a company which will have half as many, focused on its surging but young oncology business, and growing sales of its vaccine, hospital products and veterinary medicines.
New CEO for networking service LinkedIn
The LinkedIn professional networking service is getting a new CEO. Jeff Weiner will become executive chairman after 11 years as chief of the Microsoft-owned business. Ryan Roslansky, senior vice president of product, will become CEO as of June 1. Weiner said the timing felt right personally and professionally, with a ready successor. Roslansky said LinkedIn’s priority of serving the world’s professionals isn’t going to change. LinkedIn is a social network for workers and job seekers. Recruiters use it to find new hires. Users can share their resumes, search for jobs and catch up on career advice and the latest news. The basic version is free, though LinkedIn charges to get additional features.