Health Care Stocks Grind Out Small Gains

Health care stocks turned narrowly higher this afternoon, reversing prior declines, with the NYSE Health Care Index adding about 0.1% while shares of health care companies in the S&P 500 were down almost 0.3% as a group.

In company news, Abbott Laboratories (ABT) and St. Jude Medical (STJ) were advancing ahead of Tuesday’s closing bell after the medical device giants were said to be nearing regulatory approval in Europe for their $25 billion merger proposal.

Citing a person familiar with the matter, Reuters today reported European Union regulators were ready to grant conditional approval to the deal. The companies Oct. 31 provided undisclosed concessions to the EU.

The moves follow the sale last month of St. Jude’s Angio-SealT and FemosealT vascular closure products and Abbott’s Vado steerable sheath to Japan-based Terumo Corp. for about $1.12 billion. Abbott also sold its eye surgury unit to Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) for about $4.3 billion in September.

ABT shares gained Tuesday, recently adding about 1.5% to $39.79 apiece, easing slightly from an intra-day high of $39.94 a share. STJ shares also were higher, rising almost 2% to $79.74 each in late trade, earlier climbing to a session high of $70.53 a share.

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