The major domestic equity indexes closed higher on Monday, with the largest gains coming from the technology and healthcare sectors as continued optimism regarding the current earnings season continued to increase.
This past weekend’s air strikes marked the largest intervention yet by Western countries against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his ally Russia, which is facing further economic sanctions over its role in the conflict.
The securities markets were a bit on edge on Friday regarding Syria and the possibility of increased Russian intervention. However the degree of anxiety declined substantially on Monday.
Netflix chalked up a gain of about seven percent after the market closed following its quarterly earnings report. Its subscriber growth exceeded Street expectations. It had ended the regular session down 1.2 percent.
S&P 500 companies are expected to report an 18.6 percent increase in first-quarter earnings, on average, making it the largest increase in seven years, according to Thomson Reuters data.
The S&P 500’s technology sector offered up the largest improvement to the benchmark on a weighted basis, with a 0.7-percent increase, followed by the healthcare index which rose 0.8 percent.
UnitedHealth provided the second-biggest boost a day ahead of its earnings report with a 2.7 percent gain. Microsoft was the biggest positive contributor with a 1.2 percent gain, on a weighted basis.
Merck rose 2.6 percent after it presented positive data on its cancer drug Keytruda, also aiding the S&P healthcare index.
Shares of optical components makers, including those of Acacia Communications and Oclaro fell sharply after Reuters reported that the government was banning American companies from selling components to Chinese telecom equipment maker ZTE Corp. Acacia slumped almost 36 percent, as compared to a 15.2-percent drop for Oclaro.
JB Hunt Transport Services rose 6.2 percent after the trucking company’s earnings number exceeded estimates.
Bank of America rose 0.44 percent after a larger-than-expected increase in quarterly earnings.
Approximately 5.74 billion shares changed hands on the major domestic equity exchanges, among the lowest volume session so far this year. Monday’s trading compared with the 7.03 billion share average for the past 20 sessions.
Retreat by Amazon Aids Possible Competitors
Shares of pharmaceutical suppliers rose on Monday after a report that Amazon had dropped plans to sell drugs to hospitals, was a lift to the pharmaceutical supply chain rattled by the looming threat of competition from the online retailer.
Stocks of drug distributors McKesson, AmerisourceBergen and Cardinal Health rose 2 to 3 percent, while drugstore chains Walgreens Boots Alliance and CVS Health each rose about 5 percent.
Healthcare investors expected Amazon would become a major force in the industry, fueled by recent media reports that the Seattle-based company was considering entering the pharmacy business.
CNBC, which reported Amazon’s plans on Monday, said the change comes partly because Amazon had not been able to convince big hospitals to change their traditional purchasing process.
The company, through its Amazon Business unit, will instead focus on selling less sensitive medical supplies to hospitals and smaller clinics, CNBC said, citing people familiar with the matter.
The presence of established drug suppliers, along with difficulties in distributing highly regulated treatments, likely deterred the technology giant from entering the industry, analysts said.
In January, Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase unveiled plans to form a company to cut healthcare costs for hundreds of thousands of employees.