US STOCKS-Wall St edges up, led by healthcare, energy

* Merck eases concerns about healthcare costs

* Greece asks for aid package to handle debt

* Dow up 0.3, S&P up 0.3 pct, Nasdaq up 0.1 pct

* For up-to-the-minute market news see [STXNEWS/US]
(Updates to late afternoon, changes byline)

By Leah Schnurr

NEW YORK, April 23 (BestGrowthStock) – U.S. stocks (Read more about the stock market today. ) rose on Friday
as news from Merck soothed worries about the corporate cost of
healthcare reform and energy shares were boosted by higher oil
prices.

Merck & Co (MRK.N: ) jumped 5.6 percent to $35.64, making it
the top gainer on the Dow. The company said its costs related
to U.S. healthcare reform will be a far smaller percentage of
total company sales compared with rival drugmakers. For
details, see [ID:nN23193445]

The news helped the sector rebound after a selloff during
the past two days as investors feared the impact on profits
from the new healthcare overhaul. The S&P healthcare index
(.GSPA: ) was up 1 percent. For an analysis, see [ID:nN23190399]

On earnings, American Express Co (AXP.N: ) rose 2.5 percent
to $47.96 after its results beat expectations and the credit
card company struck an optimistic tone about future client
spending. [ID:nN22225832]

But keeping gains in check was jitters over the high debt
loads of some euro zone nations after Greece appealed to its
European partners and the International Monetary Fund for
emergency loans. [ID:nLDE63M0XZ]

“You have Greece on the negative side and earnings on the
positive side, so you’ve got some yin and some yang working
there,” said Phil Orlando, chief equity market strategist at
Federated Investors in New York.

The Dow Jones industrial average (.DJI: ) added 27.74 points,
or 0.25 percent, to 11,162.03. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index
(.SPX: ) rose 3.50 points, or 0.29 percent, to 1,212.17. The
Nasdaq Composite Index (.IXIC: ) edged up 1.16 points, or 0.05
percent, at 2,520.23.

Surprisingly strong earnings have contributed to the
market’s gains in recent weeks, with the benchmark S&P 500 up
79 percent from the 12-year lows of March 2009.

Oil (CLc1: ) rose 1.6 percent to above $85 a barrel on
positive economic data. The S&P energy index (.GSPE: ) gained 1.6
percent, while Chevron (CVX.N: ) was up 1.1 percent at $82.09.

The Nasdaq’s gains were limited by Qualcomm Inc (QCOM.O: )
and Amazon.com (AMZN.O: ), which both gave disappointing
forecasts earlier this week. Qualcomm fell 3.6 percent to
$37.91 and Amazon was down 4.6 percent at $143.24.

Microsoft Corp Inc (MSFT.O: ) fell 1.6 percent to $30.90
after it reported its quarterly profit jumped, but the report
failed to meet Wall Street’s heightened expectations.
[ID:nN21219595]

Homebuilders (.DJUSHB: ) were up 3.3 percent after data
showed sales of newly built single-family homes rose last month
to their highest level in eight months.

In other data, new orders for durable manufactured goods
excluding transportation posted the largest gain in over two
years. [ID:nN23141873]

“That lends further credence to our belief that the
manufacturing portion of the economy has already turned for the
positive,” said Orlando.

Investing Basics

(Editing by Kenneth Barry)

US STOCKS-Wall St edges up, led by healthcare, energy