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Tech Stocks Spark Broad Rally, S&P 500 Sets New Closing High

Dan Berman
Hot Stock Minute

Tech stocks sparked a broad rally today that sent the S&P 500 up 0.7% to set a record closing high of 1593.60. The Nasdaq rose 0.85% to 3,307, putting the tech-heavy index at a 12-year high.

A better-than-expected report on pending home sales helped drive the move higher. The National Association of Realtors says its figure rose 1.5% in March. Expectations were for a gain of 1%. There had been a decline of 0.4% in February. Meanwhile, reports from the Commerce Department indicate consumer spending and income both rose 0.2% in March. Personal spending growth was expected to be flat after rising 0.7% in February. Incomes were expected to have increased 0.4%.

Herbalife (HLF) moved over 1% higher ahead of its earnings report which will put the battle between activist investors Bill Ackman and Carl Icahn back in the spotlight. Consensus has been for the company to post earnings of $1.07 a share, up from 88-cents last year on revenues of about $1.1 billion. You'll recall Ackman attacked the Herbalife's business model calling it a pyramid scheme. Then longtime rival Icahn objected and began rallying behind the company. Just last week two Icahn allies were added to the board.

Shares of Conceptus (CPTS) surged almost 20% on news that Bayer is buying the company. The California-based Conceptus makes birth control devices. Bayer is offering $31 a share, so the stock rose to a level just shy of that. It had closed at about $26 on Friday. This will be the latest in a string of acquisitions for Bayer. Last September it agreed to buy Teva's U.S. animal health operations. It also purchased AgraQuest, which a creates bacteria to fight plant disease.

Baidu (BIDU) shares gave back early gains and closed less than 1% higher. The Chinese search giant came out with earnings that showed growth slowing. The company also faces higher costs as it pursues a push to buy up mobile apps. Shares of Baidu are now down more than 18% year-to-date.

The latest shakeup at JP Morgan (JPM) failed to make a splash with investors. Shares ended flat on news that Co-Chief Operating Officer Frank Bisignano is leaving to become CEO of First Data Corp. Bisignano is the ninth JP Morgan executive to exit CEO Jamie Dimon's operating committee since the London Whale trading scandal. Matt Zames now becomes the company's lone COO. That positions him as the employee most likely to succeed Dimon.

Shares of AOL (AOL) moved fractionally higher on news of a deal for its news site The Huffington Post. The company has reached an agreement to air video from "HuffPost Live" on AXS TV. That's Mark Cuban's satellite network which until recently was known as HD Net. "HuffPost Live" drew almost 3 million unique viewers online in March, and is available in 40 million homes.