After Market: Upbeat Economic News and Calm in Crimea Propel Stocks Higher

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Stocks Tuesday added to Monday's big gains, showing investors are not afraid of Vladimir Putin. Instead, investors focused on some more upbeat economic news, ignoring the latest moves by Russia to annex Crimea. The rationale for the market reaction is that thus far, the troubles in Ukraine have continued without any new violence.

The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) gained 89 points; that's on top of yesterday's 181 point rally. The Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) rose 53 and the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) gained 13 points.

Microsoft (MSFT) led both blue chips and tech stocks. It jumped 4 percent to its highest level in more than 13 years. The company is reportedly ready to release a version of its popular Office software package for the Apple iPad. Analysts say that could add more than $1 billion in new revenue.

Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) rose 3½ percent as the stock was upgraded by Barclay's, despite the fact that it's been on a tear lately. Over the past six months, HP shares have jumped more than 40 percent. Also in the tech sector, Micron Technology (MU) gained 2 percent and Google (GOOG) added more than 1 percent.

Healthcare, drug and biotechs also had a good day. Amgen, (AMGN) United Healthcare (UNH), Pfizer (PFE), HCA (HCA), and Gilead (GILD) all posted solid gains.

Elsewhere, Future Fuel (FF) jumped 17 percent after the biofuels company posted a four-fold increase in earnings.

Penn Virginia (PVR) gained 15 percent. Investor George Soros raised his stake in the oil and gas company.

Fossil Group (FOSL) rose 4 percent. It's working with Google (GOOG) on Android-based wearables.

Some high-end fashion companies – Ralph Lauren and Kate Spade – gained on positive comments from Barclay's, but it put a 'sell' on Michael Kors, which fell 2 percent.

Also losing ground today:
  • GameStop (GAME) fell 3½ percent on news that it's getting a new competitor. Retail giant Walmart (WMT) plans to begin buying and selling used video games.
  • The photo website Shutterfly (SFLY) fell 5 percent as Cowen cut its rating to "underperform."
  • And WiFi provider Towerstream (TWER) fell 7 percent after posting weaker than expected earnings.

What to Watch Wednesday:
  • The Commerce Department releases the U.S. current account trade measure for the fourth quarter at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time.
  • Federal Reserve policymakers meet to set interest rates; statement and projections due at 2:00 p.m.
  • Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen holds a press conference at 2:30 p.m.
These major companies are scheduled to report quarterly financial statements:
  • FedEx (FDX)
  • General Mills (GIS)
  • Guess (GES)
  • K.B. Home (KBH)
-Produced by Drew Trachtenberg.


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