The stock market rallied modestly today as Whole Foods (NASDAQ:WFMI) gave a boost to food retailers and doubts over President Obama's healthcare reform efforts lifted the health insurance sector.
The S&P 500 Index closed up 4.63 points, or 0.42 percent, at 1,099.50. The Dow Jones Industrial Average close at 10,309.17, up 0.39 percent or 40.36 points. The Nasdaq Composite closed up 0.55 percent.
Food retailers fared well today as Whole Foods raised its guidance for 2010. The company sees sales growing 8.5 to 10.5 percent and identical store sales growing 2.9 to 4.9 percent.
Whole Foods closed up 12.55 percent, Winn-Dixie Stores (NASDAQ:WINN) closed up 10.14 percent, and SUPERVALU (NYSE:SVU) closed up 1.58 percent.
Health insurance companies were among the best performers. Aetna (NYSE:AET) closed up 2.99 percent, UnitedHealth (NYSE:UNH) closed up 2.91 percent, and WellPoint (NYSE:WLP) closed up 2.12 percent.
Whenever President Obama's healthcare reforms have been threatened, healthcare stocks have performed well. On January 19th, healthcare stocks soared ahead of Republican Scott Brown's victory in the Massachusetts Senate race.
Today, a Public Policy Polling showed that 50 percent of voters are opposed to Obama's healthcare plan versus the 39 percent that support it. Various Republican Congressmen also want to scrap the current bill and have a fresh start in healthcare reforms.
Bloomberg reported today that Citigroup (NYSE:C) has been heavily favored by hedge funds recently.
The article stated that firms run by John Paulson, Eric Mindich and George Soros purchased almost half a billion shares in Citigroup Inc. last quarter as more than 120 hedge funds said they bought stock in the bank. According to CNBC, Paulson also increased his stakes in Bank of America (NYSE:BAC).
Citigroup closed up 3.02 percent today and Bank of America closed up 3.30 percent. However, JPMorgan (NYSE:JPM), Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS), and Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS) all closed down today.
In the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) Meeting Minutes, released at 2:00 pm today, regulators still anticipate inflation to be subdued for sometime and that current economic conditions warrant exceptionally low levels of the federal funds rate for an extended period.
However, once again, Kansas City Fed Chief Thomas Hoenig was the lone dissenting vote. Hoenig believed that economic and financial conditions had changed sufficiently to warrant an increase in the fed funds rate.
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