U.S. stocks rise on better-than-estimated data, acquisitions

Global Slump

Stocks in Asia plunged, erasing the MSCI Asia Pacific Index’s 2013 advance and dragging Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average into a bear market. The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index of Hong Kong-listed mainland firms slid 2.7%, and the Nikkei 225 tumbled 6.4%.

“The economy around the globe is slowing down so U.S. investors are certainly watching the data and hopefully see signs that the U.S. is not joining their friends in Europe and emerging markets,” Wayne Wilbanks, chief investment officer at Wilbanks, Smith & Thomas Asset Management LLC in Norfolk, Virginia, which oversees $2.5 billion, said by phone. “As markets get higher and higher, they can’t decide, ‘is the game over?’ Everybody wants to take their profits in this market, but they don’t want to miss the last 100 points.”

The Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index, or VIX, slipped 10% today to 16.74. The equity volatility gauge, which moves in the opposite direction as the S&P 500 about 80% of the time, reached a six-year low in March and has since surged 48%.

S&P Groups

All 10 industries in the S&P 500 gained. Consumer- discretionary and raw-materials companies climbed the most, rising at least 1.4%.

Gannett rallied 31% to $26 and Belo soared 27% to $13.66. Both stocks hit five-year highs. Gannett will pay $13.75 per Belo share in cash, plus the assumption of $715 million in debt, according to a statement. The acquisition will make Gannett the fourth largest owner of major network affiliates, the company said. It will almost double Gannett’s broadcast portfolio to 43 stations from 23.

Safeway jumped 8.5% to $25.07 after agreeing to sell its Canadian stores to Empire Co.’s Sobeys Inc. unit for about C$5.8 billion ($5.7 billion) in cash. Proceeds from the sale will be used to pay down $2 billion in debt and buy back stock, Safeway said.

PVH Corp. climbed 9.5% to $121.80. The owner of the Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein brands said that excluding some items it earned $1.91 a share in the first quarter. That beat the average analyst estimate of $1.37 in a Bloomberg survey.

Wet Weather

DuPont slipped 0.4% to $54.03. The largest U.S. chemical company by market value cut its first-half earnings forecast after cool, wet weather in North America and Europe affected revenue and costs at its agriculture and nutrition and health units.

Williams Cos. fell 1.6% to $33.48. At least two people died after an explosion and fire at a Williams chemical plant in Geismar, Louisiana, and a third person is missing and presumed dead, according to Jean Kelly, a spokeswoman with the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality. The cause of today’s explosion isn’t known, she said.

Coty Inc. declined 1.1% to $17.31 on the first day of trading. The maker of perfumes endorsed by Beyonce and Heidi Klum raised about $1 billion on behalf of existing holders in an initial public offering yesterday.

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