* Merck up after FDA agrees to speedy review of drug
* Indexes up: Dow 0.46 pct, S&P 0.16 pct, Nasdaq 0.11 pct (Adds details, comments, updates prices)
By Yashaswini Swamynathan
Jan 11 (Reuters) - The Dow got a healthy boost from Merck on Wednesday, while the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq inched higher moments before President-elect Donald Trump’s first formal news conference got underway.
Investors will closely watch Trump’s speech, looking for clues on where his priorities as the new president lie, after taking office on Jan. 20 and how he plans boost economic growth.
Trump’s election in November sparked a record-setting rally. But, investors now want evidence on if and how he keeps his campaign-trail promises of stimulating the economy though increased public spending, tax cuts and repatriating U.S. companies’ funds from overseas.
The dollar, which has also basked in Trump’s victory, rose to 102.79. However, concerns over some of his protectionist statements have kept investors wary.
“I worry that it is going to be more about the distractions that he will address as opposed to the pro-growth policies and that is going to be the important factor for investors,” said Mark Heppenstall, chief investment officer of Penn Mutual Asset Management.
Oil prices also helped keep the equity market afloat, rising for the first time in three days after Saudi Arabia provided details of a February supply cut to some of its Asian customers.
Investors are also looking out to the corporate earnings season, which kicks off with big banks on Friday, to judge if financial results can support the lofty valuations Wall Street is trading at.
S&P 500 companies’ earnings are estimated to have risen 5.8 percent in the fourth quarter, the best in three years, largely helped by financials stocks, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
At 11:05 a.m. ET (1605 GMT), the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 92.26 points, or 0.46 percent, at 19,947.79, the S&P 500 was up 3.65 points, or 0.16 percent, at 2,272.55 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 6.09 points, or 0.11 percent, at 5,557.90.
Seven of the 11 major S&P sectors were higher, with the healthcare sector’s 0.23 percent rise the biggest boost. The sector is set for its seventh straight day of gains.
Merck surged 5 percent to $62.91 after the FDA agreed to a speedy review of the company’s application to combine immunotherapy with other drugs to treat lung cancer. The stock gave the biggest push to the S&P and the Dow.
AstraZeneca and Bristol-Myers, which are also developing similar therapies, dropped 1.3 percent and 2.7percent, respectively.
Rite Aid rose 3.8 percent to $8.64 after the NY Post reported that the drugstore operator’s deal to be acquired by Walgreens would be approved this month. Walgreens rose 2.6 percent.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 1,565 to 1,212. On the Nasdaq, 1,324 issues fell and 1,285 advanced.
The S&P 500 index showed 12 new 52-week highs and two new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 59 new highs and eight new lows. (Reporting by Yashaswini Swamynathan in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D‘Souza)