Feb. 24 - Summary: The benchmark S&P 500 traded in record territory but failed to set a lifetime closing high in a sign investors are skeptical of the strength of the recent rally. Conway G. Gittens reports.
The S&P 500 touched a lifetime high, but skeptics came out late in the day, causing the benchmark to miss a record close by less that a point. The rest of the market ended below the highs of the day as well - the Nasdaq hitting a 14-year peak. A pledge by the G20 over the weekend to support global economic growth and growing investor confidence in the global economic recovery set the tone, which was then followed up by a lot of dealmaking. Ben Willis of Albert Fried: SOUNDBITE: BEN WILLIS, MANAGING DIRECTOR, ALBERT FRIED (ENGLISH) SAYING: "We call it Merger Monday and whenever you have mergers it's a positive for the psychology of the market. So those are a company saying: 'We want to put our money to work and we see no other place to put it to work than to buy another company,' That just goes to again to equity investors looking for an opportunity to what may be the next company that's going to be purchased by somebody. It all adds to the upside psychology of a market." Shares of Triquint Semiconductor surged 26 percent and RF Micro Devices gained 21 percent as the two chip companies agreed to merge in a $1.6 billion deal. Meanwhile, Men's Wearhouse still wants to take Jos A. Bank to the prom, upping an offer offer to buy its fellow menswear retailer. Jos. A. Bank, which says its will review the offer moved higher, as did Men's Wearhouse. It's not a merger, but it's a milestone deal nonetheless. Netflix has agreed to pay Comcast in order to make sure its streaming video service can be properly seen on Comcast's broadband service. Terms of the agreement were not made public. The agreement will mean higher costs for Netflix, but analysts were not concerned. Shares of Netflix rallied more than 3 percent. Comcast was up only slightly. Taco Bell is making a run for the breakfast border. The unit of Yum Brands will roll out a breakfast menu next month. The new menu items could add further pressure on McDonald's, which has struggled to lift sales in the U.S. Taking a quick look at defense stocks. Shares of Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon all up on the day even though the Pentagon laid out plans to slash the Army to its smallest level since the 1940s. In Europe, stocks finished at six-year highs despite disappointments from HSBC and Volkswagen.