US stocks finish higher ahead of Fed meeting

A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange during the afternoon of in New York City on June 11, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange during the afternoon of in New York City on June 11, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (AFP) - US stocks on Monday finished a choppy day of trade slightly higher as investors weighed the Iraq crisis and merger news ahead of a US Federal Reserve policy decision on Wednesday.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 5.27 points (0.03 per cent) at 16,781.01.

The broad-based S&P 500 advanced 1.62 (0.08 per cent) to 1,937.78, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index gained 10.45 (0.24 per cent) to 4,321.11.

In Iraq, militants battled Iraqi security forces for control of a strategic northern town, while US officials weighed drone strikes against jihadist fighters leading the charge.

Officials said US and Iranian diplomats could discuss cooperating on Iraq on the sidelines of nuclear talks in Vienna.

Meanwhile, companies in the pharmaceuticals, telecommunications, data storage and energy sectors announced transactions Monday and over the weekend.

Mr David Levy, portfolio manager at Kenjol Capital Management, said investors are looking to the conclusion of the Fed policy meeting Wednesday, at which officials could discuss when to raise benchmark interest rates.

"The market is more or less waiting for the Fed as geopolitical and macroeconomic data come to the forefront this week," he said.

US medical-device maker Medtronic will buy its Irish-based competitor Covidien for US$42.9 billion in a deal that will expand Medtronic's product offerings and enable it to pay lower taxes by shifting its headquarters to Ireland.

Medtronic dropped 1.1 per cent, while Covidien surged 20.5 per cent.

US telecom operator Level 3 Communications plans to buy Internet business provider TW Telecom in a deal worth US$7.3 billion, a deal that bolsters its holdings in North America. Level 3 dropped 4.1 per cent, while TW Telecom rose 7.3 per cent.

Pipeline giant Williams Companies jumped 18.7 per cent after announcing it would buy the remaining 50 per cent interest in Access Midstream Partners, giving it 100 per cent of the asset.

Williams said the deal would give it major stakes in big shale oil and gas assets. Williams will also boost its dividend 32 per cent. Access Midstream Partners tacked on 1.9 per cent.

US data storage company SanDisk plans to buy flash memory firm Fusion-io for US$1.6 billion. SanDisk advanced 3.6 per cent while Fusion-io surged 22.4 per cent higher.

Speech-recognition software developer Nuance Communications jumped 9.7 per cent following a report it has held talks about being acquired.

Bond prices were mixed. The yield on the 10-year US Treasury held steady at 2.60 per cent, the same level as Friday, while the 30-year slipped to 3.40 per cent from 3.41 per cent. Bond prices and yields move inversely.

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