Fed minutes and mergers spark late rally - New York Report

US STOCKS ended a volatile session yesterday with modest gains after minutes from a Federal Reserve meeting indicated that the central bank remained on track for a interest rate hike this year.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 27.09 points, or 0.15 per cent, to 17,902.51, the S&P 500 gained 5.57 points, or 0.27 per cent, to 2,081.9 and the Nasdaq Composite added 40.59 points, or 0.83 per cent, to 4,950.82.

Major indexes moved between negative territory and session highs after the news as traders parsed the minutes for clues as to when the first rise could occur.

“June would come as a surprise,” said Alan Gayle, senior investment strategist and director of asset allocation at RidgeWorth Investments in Atlanta, Georgia. “If the Fed moves monetary policy in an arbitrarily fast manner, that would be a detriment for stocks.”

Fed officials acknowledged risks from overseas and a weak start to the year at their March meeting but remained confident in the strength of the recovery.

Markets were boosted by merger activity in the healthcare sector, though the energy sector was weak as crude oil plunged.

Mylan jumped 14.8 per cent to $68.36 after the generic drugmaker offered to buy Perrigo for about $29bn in cash and stock. Perrigo jumped 18.4 per cent to $195. The two companies were the biggest percentage gainers on the S&P 500.

The S&P Energy index fell one per cent while Exxon Mobil lost two per cent to $84.06 and Chevron shed 1.7 per cent to $106.66.