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Overnight Markets: Most US stocks advance on merger activities

Overnight Markets: Most US stocks advance on merger activities

Most US stocks advanced on Tuesday, with the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index surging to within eight points of a record, as increased merger activities offset slower growth in New York-area manufacturing.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 24 points or 0.15%, to end at 16,130. The S&P 500 gained two points or 0.12%, to finish at 1,841. The Nasdaq Composite, rose for an eighth straight session, added 29 points or 0.68%, to close at 4,273.

Economic reports were disappointing, but it was mostly dismissed by the market and blamed on the weather. US homebuilder confidence suffered its largest one-month drop ever in February, and the New York Federal Reserve's gauge of manufacturing was weaker than expected.

However, the sentiment was lifted after Actavis (ACT.N) said it would acquire the specialty pharmaceuticals company Forest Laboratories (FRX.N) in a cash-and-stock deal valued at about $25 billion.

Forest Labs shares soared 27.5%. Shares of generic drug makers Teva (TEVA.N) and Mylan (MYL.O) rose on the news. Teva gained 3.3% and Mylan shot up 4.8%.

On the downside, Coca-Cola Co (KO.N) reported global sales volumes below expectations and its stock fell 3.8%, weighing on the Dow.

After the closing bell, Herbalife (HLF.N) shares rose 4% after the company posted quarterly results and guidance.

Tesla Motors (TSLA.O) shares hit an all-time high following a report that Apple's mergers and acquisitions chief, Adrian Perica, met Tesla chief Elon Musk last year, sparking speculation that Apple could be interested in buying the electric car maker. Tesla shares rose 2.8%, while Apple edged up 0.4%.

US-traded shares of BlackBerry Ltd (BBRY.O) gained 5.3% after Dan Loeb's Third Point LLC Hedge fund disclosed a 10-million-share stake in the Canadian company.

In Asia, most stocks fell on Wednesday in late morning session as consumer companies led declines.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index slipped 0.2% to 137 as of 11:15 a.m. in Tokyo. Japan’s Topix fell 0.4% on volume that was 14% below the 30-day intraday average.

South Korea’s Kospi index slid 0.4%. China’s Shanghai Composite Index dropped 0.3%, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index lost 0.1%. Taiwan’s Taiex index was little changed. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index rose 0.3% and New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index added 0.1%. Singapore’s Straits Times Index climbed 0.5%.

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