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Wednesday 19 March 9:10 AM


MORNING REPORT: US Stocks Rise for Fifth Straight Session

U.S. stocks rose for a fifth day, giving the Standard & Poor`s 500 Index and Dow Jones Industrial Average their longest winning streaks in almost two years, amid a countdown to war with Iraq.

The Dow gained 52 points to 8194 on the heels of a three-day, 642-point climb. It was the blue chips` fifth straight winning session. The Nasdaq added 8 to reach 1400, while the S&P 500 rose 3 to 866.

Saddam Hussein and sons rejected Bush`s ultimatum giving them 48 hours to leave Iraq ahead of the planned U.S. invasion. With war imminent, the U.S. government raised the domestic security alert back to threat level Orange, indicating a high risk of terrorist attacks. It cited reports from "highly reliable" sources that al Qaeda plans new strikes, possibly with unconventional weapons.

Drug stocks rose after a jury cleared Bayer of legal responsibility for the illness of a Texas man who took the company`s Baycol anti-cholesterol drug.

The ruling ``shows Bayer and the industry are doing the right thing,`` said Ivan Kugener, who manages the equivalent of $578 million at Lombard Odier Darier Hentsch & Cie. in Geneva. ``Patients have responsibility for what they take.`` Bayer`s U.S. shares soared $4.16 to $15.40.

Pfizer, the world`s biggest drugmaker, gained 32 cents to $30.02. Merck, the third-biggest U.S. drug manufacturer, rose 82 cents to $53.02. Human Genome Sciences Inc. climbed 92 cents to $8.10. The biotechnology company plans to start human tests of an anthrax vaccination, the Washington Post reported, citing U.S. health authorities.

Shares of Dow aerospace company Boeing (up $0.93 to $27.83) added 3 percent and General Dynamics (up $1.49 to $57.75) added 1.5% after a federal appeals court overturned a ruling on Monday that could have allowed the government to collect damages from the two firms for a U.S.

Tobacco products makers were among the few big stock movers, with shares of Dow stock Altria Group (down $2.12 to $32.60), parent of Philip Morris, losing more than 6 percent and R.J. Reynolds (down $3.12 to $33.57) losing 8.5 percent.

Concurrent Computer Corp. dropped 52 cents to $2.23. The video-on-demand systems maker said revenue in the third quarter ending March 31 will be about $16.5 million to $18.5 million. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial expected an average of $22.5 million.

After the close of trade, business software maker Oracle (down $0.10 to $12.25) released its fiscal third-quarter earnings. The firm earned 11 cents per share, two pennies better than what it earned a year earlier and a penny more than had been expected.


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