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Overnight Markets: Most US stocks up as investors weigh Obama speech

Overnight Markets: Most US stocks up as investors weigh Obama speech

Most US stocks gained on Wednesday, with the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index hitting its highest level since October 2007, as investors weighed President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address and economic reports.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 36 points or 0.26%, to 13,983, the S&P 500 gained one point to 1,520 and the Nasdaq Composite added 10 points or 0.33%, to 3,197.

Obama called for increasing the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour and vowed to expand trade with Europe in the State of the Union speech late on Wednesday. He also proposed spending $50 billion on “urgent” infrastructure projects. He praised companies such as Apple Inc., Caterpillar Inc. and Ford Motor Co. for bringing manufacturing jobs back to the US.

General Electric lifted the S&P 500 after cable company Comcast Corp said it will buy from GE the part of NBCUniversal it didn't already own for $16.7 billion. Comcast's stock closed up 3% and GE gained 3.6%.

Deere & Co was down 3.5% after the world's largest farm equipment maker forecast a modest increase in sales this year despite the prospect of the biggest corn crop in US history.

Technology bellwether Cisco Systems was down 2% in extended trading after it posted results.

Dr Pepper Snapple plunged 5.8% after it forecast profit for the current year below analysts' estimates.

Cliffs Natural Resources lost 20% of its market value a day after the miner reported a quarterly loss and slashed its dividend by 76%.

McDonald’s Corp. declined 1.2% after Obama announced his plan to raise the minimum wage. Brinker International Inc., owner of the Chili’s and Maggiano’s dining chains, fell 3.2%, while Darden Restaurants Inc. retreated 2%.

On the positive side, retailers gained with Netflix Inc. adding 4.7%. Amazon increased 4.2% as the world’s largest online retailer is expanding its content licensing agreement to bring shows from CBS Television Distribution and Showtime Networks to Amazon’s Prime Instant Video service.

In Asia, shares gained on Thursday after the Bank of Japan said that it will keep its asset purchasing programme intact amid speculation an unexpected contraction in Japan’s economy in the fourth quarter will boost Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s efforts to fight deflation.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index climbed 0.4% to 134 as of 12:32 p.m. in Hong Kong. Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average rose 0.6% and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index climbed 0.9%. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index advanced 0.8%. South Korea’s Kospi Index slid 0.1% and Singapore’s Straits Times Index lost 0.2%.

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