New York Report: US trade data pushes S&P to first 2014 gains

US STOCKS ended higher last night, snapping the S&P 500’s three day losing streak to give the benchmark index its first positive session of 2014.

A sharp decline in the US trade deficit and upbeat German data helped improve market sentiment, pointing to strengthening economic fundamentals on both sides of the Atlantic.

The S&P healthcare index, up one per cent, was the best performer among the 10 major S&P sectors, buoyed by a Deutsche Bank upgrade of United Health Group to a buy. Shares of United Health, a Dow component, gained 3.1 per cent to close at $76.51. Tenet Healthcare shares climbed 4.9 per cent to $46.10.

The S&P 500’s gains followed a three-day losing streak, which pushed the benchmark index down more than one per cent as traders took profits in the wake of 2013’s rally that drove the benchmark index up nearly 30 per cent.

Data showed US exports hit a record high in November, while weak oil prices restrained import growth, resulting in the smallest trade deficit in four years. German unemployment also unexpectedly fell in December.

Shares of Google hit a record intraday high of $1,139.69 before closing up 1.9 per cent at $1,138.86. JP Morgan, which rates Google as overweight, raised its target price.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 105.84 points or 0.64 per cent, to end at 16,530.94. The S&P 500 gained 11.11 points or 0.61 per cent, to finish at 1,837.88. The Nasdaq Composite added 39.501 points or 0.96 per cent, to close at 4,153.182.