S&P 500 rises to highest level in five years on merger optimism

Macau Gambling

Casino companies retreated as HSBC Global Research said Macau’s gambling revenue lagged behind its projection for the first 17 days of February. VIP, or high-stakes, gamblers may have stayed away to avoid crowds during the New Year holiday, HSBC said.

Wynn Resorts Ltd. dropped 1.8% to $120.80 after CLSA Ltd. downgraded Wynn Macau, the Hong Kong-listed unit of billionaire Steve Wynn’s Las Vegas-based company, to outperform from buy. Las Vegas Sands Corp., which operates casinos and convention centers in the U.S., Macau and Singapore, tumbled 3.2% to $51.19.

Growing Confidence

Price swings in U.S. stocks are narrowing the most since the Great Depression, a signal of reviving investor confidence that has fueled a four-year-old bull market.

Average daily price moves for the S&P 500 have fallen to 0.43% in 2013 from an average 1.08% in the past five years, the steepest decline for any corresponding period since the 1930s, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The last time the annual average was this low was 1995, when the S&P 500 surged 34% and doubled in the following four years. Stocks gain an average of 17% during years when the gyrations are so small, the data going back to 1928 show.

The combination of declining volatility and the best start to a year since 1997 is prompting bears to warn that investors are growing complacent as the rally ages. Bulls cite smaller fluctuations as another reason to buy, on top of rising earnings forecasts, below-average valuations and the biggest deposits in equity mutual funds in nine years.

“Switching from net outflows to net inflows has been a big part of volatility being dampened,” Michael Shaoul, the chairman and chief executive officer at Marketfield Asset Management, said in a Feb. 14 phone interview.

Bloomberg News

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