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US stocks rise sharply in early trading

Published: Monday, March 31, 2014 11:24 a.m. CDT

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks were broadly higher in early trading today as the market headed for its fifth straight quarterly gain. Dow member Johnson & Johnson rose on news that it was selling a diagnostics business.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 13 points, or 0.7 percent, to 1,871 in the first 45 minutes of trading. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 121 points, or 0.7 percent, to 16,445. The Nasdaq composite rose 39 points, or 1 percent, to 4,195.

Twenty-nine of the 30 members stocks in the Dow average rose. Microsoft continued to rise after its Office for iPad software was released last week to highly positive reviews. Microsoft rose $1, or 2.5 percent, to $41.28. Walt Disney rose $1.31, or 1.7 percent, to $80.30.

Johnson & Johnson accepted an offer of about $4 billion from the private equity firm Carlyle Group to buy its Ortho-Clinical Diagnostics business. J&J said the deal for the blood-testing unit should close by mid-year. J&J rose 97 cents, or 1 percent, to $98.43.

Trading is expected to be heavier and more volatile Monday as investors close out their first-quarter positions. At the end of each quarter, fund managers will often sell the worst-performing stocks and buy the best-performing stocks in an effort to make their portfolios look better when their investors get their quarterly statements. The phenomenon has the Wall Street nickname of “window dressing.” If the stock market closes higher Monday, it would be the fifth-straight quarterly rise for the S&P 500.

Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note edged up to 2.75 percent from 2.72 percent late Friday. The price of crude oil slipped 14 cents to $101.52. Gold dropped $5.20 to $1,289.20 an ounce.

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