Wall Street up as Portugal concerns ebb


U.S. stocks rose on Wednesday after a healthy bond auction in Portugal eased nervousness about the euro zone’s debt crisis while a spike in food prices lifted agricultural shares.

Two stocks rose for every loser on the New York Stock Exchange on hopes euro-zone finance ministers would beef up the European Union’s rescue fund and after Portugal sold $1.62 billion amid strong demand.

“The auction shows a stabilization in the European situation, and that removes an item from our wall of worry,” said Jason Pride, director of investment strategy at Glenmede Investment and Wealth Management in Philadelphia. “There have been fears of contagion that could ripple into equity markets here.”

Agricultural stocks rallied after a U.S. government report that U.S. stockpiles of corn and soybeans would be drawn down to surprisingly low levels. The news boosted food prices, which in turn lifted companies in the group.

Seed company Monsanto Co (MON.N) rose 3.1 percent to $74.79 while Corn Products International (CPO.N) was up 2.2 percent to $47.72. Farm equipment company Deere & Co (DE.N) rose 2.3 percent to $87.59.

“Any time you have stockpiles shrink, you can expect an upward shock in prices,” Pride said, adding that he was bullish on the sector in the long term.

Banks were among gainers, with JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) up 2.6 percent to $44.73 after its chief executive said the bank could pay an annual dividend of up to $1 once the Federal Reserve gives its approval, pending the completion of stress tests.

In addition, Wells Fargo raised the U.S. bank sector to an “overweight” rating, citing a decline in credit costs and positive loan growth.

The Dow Jones industrial average (.DJI) was up 91.88 points, or 0.79 percent, at 11,763.76. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index (.SPX) was up 10.79 points, or 0.85 percent, at 1,285.27. The Nasdaq Composite Index (.IXIC) was up 17.26 points, or 0.64 percent, at 2,734.09.

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