S&P 500 gets lift from health insurance stocks

 @ibtimes on February 17 2010 1:45 PM

The S&P 500 Index is being lifted by its health insurance components on doubts stemming from American voters and Congressional Republicans about President Obama's healthcare reforms.  Upgrades, earnings, and raised forecasts also buoyed the index. 

The S&P 500 Index is up 0.19 percent, or 2.05 points, to trade at 1,096.92.  The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 18.06 points, or 0.18 percent, to trade at 10,286.87 at 2:20 pm.

Health insurance stocks are among the leading components of the S&P 500.  Tenet Healthcare (NYSE:THC) is up 2.63 percent, UnitedHealth (NYSE:UNH) is up 3.89 percent, WellPoint (NYSE:WLP) is up 3.47 percent, Aetna (NYSE:AET) is up 3.90 percent, and Unum (NYSE:UNM) is up 2.09 percent.

Whole Foods (NASDAQ:WFMI) is the leading component of the index.  It raised its sales and earnings guidance and received an upgrade today from JPMorgan.  It is trading up 12.09 percent.

Deere & Company (NYSE:DE), the agricultural equipment giant, is also up significantly after it reported an EPS of $0.57, up from the $0.48 figure a year ago and beating estimates of $0.19.  The firm raised its full-year forecast for earnings.  Deere & Company is trading up 4.43 percent.

Doubts are surfacing ahead of President Obama's bi-partisan healthcare summit on February 25.  According to a Public Policy Polling released today, 50 percent of voters say they oppose Obama's health care plan while only 39 percent support it. 

The same report showed that 37 percent said they definitely will not vote Democratic for Congress this year while 34 percent said they definitely will.  Such sentiments threaten to further erode the Democratic majority in the Senate.  

Congressional Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader John Boehner, are calling for a fresh start for healthcare reform.

The best way to start on real, bipartisan reform would be to scrap those bills and focus on the kind of step-by-step improvements that will lower health care costs and expand access, said Boehner.

Back on January 19, health care insurance companies led the S&P 500 ahead of Republican Scott Brown's victory in the Massachusetts Senate election. Brown's victory took away the Democratic filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. 

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