Trading higher for most of the day, stocks really started shooting up in afternoon trading as Wall Street weighed the likelihood that the Federal Reserve would start tapering stimulus efforts in the wake of weak economic data. Wall Street concluded that to be unlikely, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) gained 138 points, or 0.9%, to finish at 15,254. Intel's (NASDAQ: INTC ) stock tacked on 4%, ending as the top performer in the blue-chip index.
Monday marks the second straight day of trading where Intel's stock closed with the Dow's best gains. On Friday, shares were able to finish in the black when the index as a whole was down more than 200 points. The news, which was unconfirmed as of last week, is now official: Intel will be providing the chips for Samsung's next Galaxy tablet.
Pharmaceutical giant Merck (NYSE: MRK ) didn't fare so poorly either on Monday, tacking on healthy 3.8% gains of its own after some very positive early results on small-scale testing of treatments for advanced melanoma. It appears that the new drug is able to somehow tell the body which cells were tumorous, enabling the immune system to attack the offending cells. Prior to this development, such cells had been undetectable by the human body.
No slouch in its own right, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT ) shares added 2% today to join Intel as a technology stock boosting the Dow. A tech analyst at Nomura Securities, Rick Sherlund, suggested that Microsoft spin off parts of its business -- like search engine Bing and gaming platform Xbox -- that weren't the company's core focus. Shareholders may be swayed by the argument, considering the stock's stagnant performance over the last decade.
Lastly, one of only two stocks to lose ground in the index today, Bank of America (NYSE: BAC ) shares slipped 0.8%. Shareholders are holding their breath to find out what a New York judge thinks of the bank's $8.5 billion settlement to resolve litigation over faulty mortgage-backed securities it sold to clients during the financial crisis.
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