US stocks boosted by Merck earnings

US stocks posted their biggest daily percentage gain in three months yesterday after strong revenue from drugmaker Merck and regional manufacturing data instilled confidence in the economic outlook.

Resource related shares were among the strongest gainers as a weaker US dollar sparked buying in oil and other commodities.

The CRB commodities index marked its largest one-day percentage advance in three months and energy company Chevron was the top boost to the Dow industrials, up 2.8 per cent to $72.99.

Shares of Merck gained two per cent to $37.66 after it posted quarterly revenue above analysts’ estimates.

“Earnings have been strong and people are starting to believe the recovery we’re seeing in the economy is real,” said Angel Mata, managing director of listed equity trading at Stifel Nicolaus Capital Markets in Baltimore.

“There’s more of a fear that investors will miss the next move up, as opposed to not being involved and watching the market go down.”

The S&P resumed weekly gains last Friday after four consecutive weeks of declines, which were triggered in part by fiscal weakness in Greece and other eurozone countries as well as uncertainty about China’s moves to curb bank lending.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 169.67 points, or 1.68 per cent, to 10,268.81. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index added 19.36 points, or 1.80 per cent, to 1,094.87. The Nasdaq Composite Index gained 30.66 points, or 1.40 per cent, to 2,214.19.

In another boost to sentiment, the New York Federal Reserve Bank’s gauge of manufacturing in New York State rose more than expected in February as inventories jumped.

JPMorgan Chase & Co will buy the non-US assets of commodities joint venture RBS Sempra from Royal Bank of Scotland and Sempra Energy for $1.7bn in cash, roughly doubling its commodities client base and making the second-largest US bank by assets even larger.

Financial stocks got a boost from Britain’s Barclays, which said it nearly doubled profits in 2009 to $18.2 bn.

JPMorgan shares jumped 2.9 per cent to $40.07.