Tech leads US stocks broadly higher; Boeing drops

The S&P 500 on Monday posted its biggest increase in weeks. AP/Richard Drew

Tech leads US stocks broadly higher

NEW YORK — A broadly rally led by technology companies drove U.S. stocks sharply higher Monday, giving the S&P 500 its biggest increase since late January.

The latest gains also snapped a five-day losing streak for the benchmark index, which was coming off its worst weekly stumble this year.

Nvidia was the S&P 500's strongest performer after agreeing to buy chipmaker Mellanox. Apple benefited from an analyst upgrade. A sharp decline in Boeing stemmed the gain for the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

Investors drew encouragement from a report showing a slight increase in U.S. retail sales for January after a steep decline in December, and from new data showing a rebound in Chinese exports this month, said Tom Martin, senior portfolio manager with Globalt Investments.

"The data that's coming in today is at the margin at least OK; there's no negative news," Martin said. "People want to be in the market. Rates are low. Stocks are OK."

SC jobless rate unchanged at 3.2%

COLUMBIA — South Carolina's unemployment rate was unchanged in the first month of the year.

The Department of Employment and Workforce said Monday that the jobless figured for January was 3.2 percent, the same as December's revised figure.

The national unemployment rate was 4 percent.

The agency said the trade, transportation and utilities segments of the economy added the most jobs, with more than 2,600 in January. The construction segment was down about 800 jobs.

Overall, more than 2.2 million people were working in South Carolina last month.

Bamberg County had the highest unemployment rate at 6.6 percent. Charleston and Lexington counties had the lowest rate, at 2.9 percent.

Tesla walks back closing plans

DETROIT — Tesla is walking back plans to close most of its showrooms worldwide and announced price hikes for most of its electric vehicles.

Tesla announced last month that it would shutter most of its stores to cut costs so it could sell its lower-priced Model 3 for $35,000. The company continues its shift to toward online-only sales, but now says it won't close as many stores as originally thought.

The $35,000 base Model 3 will still be available, but the company is raising prices by 3 percent on all other models.

In a Monday filing with government regulators, Tesla now says it closed 10 percent of its stores, but a few of those will now remain open. Another 20 percent are being evaluated and some could remain open.

The company gave no numbers, but said it would close only about half the stores that it had intended to. It has 378 stores and service centers worldwide and about 100 stores in the U.S.

"As a result of keeping significantly more stores open, Tesla will need to raise vehicle prices by about 3 percent on average worldwide," a company's statement said. "We will only close about half as many stores, but the cost savings are therefore only about half."

Suitor in gold buyout drops bid

ELKO, Nev. — Barrick Gold is dropping its takeover bid for Newmont Mining, as the gold companies instead form a joint venture to combine their Nevada mining operations.

Last month Barrick Gold Corp. offered to acquire Newmont Mining Corp. for about $18 billion in stock.

The joint venture will include the companies' assets and reserves in Nevada. It doesn't include Barrick's Fourmile project and Newmont's Fiberline and Mike deposits, pending the determination of their commercial feasibility.

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The companies estimate they'll achieve $500 million in average pretax savings a year in the first five full years of the combination.

The venture, which is expected to be completed in the coming months, still needs regulatory approval.

Jeans giant Levi to raise up to $587M

SAN FRANCISCO — Levi Strauss plans to raise up to $587 million in an initial public offering of company shares.

The company said Monday that it's offering about 9.5 million shares, while selling stockholders are offering about 27.2 million shares. The stock is expected to be priced between $14 and $16 each.

The underwriters will have a 30-day option to buy an additional 5.5 million shares from the company at the IPO price, minus underwriting discounts and commissions.

The shares are expected to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the "LEVI" symbol.

Levi Strauss & Co. made its first pair of jeans in 1873. The company did go public before, on 1971, but was taken private again in a 1985 leveraged buyout.

Ex-Nissan exec barred from meeting 

TOKYO — A Japanese court has rejected a request by former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn, released on bail last week, to attend the Japanese automaker's board meeting on Tuesday.

Nissan dismissed Ghosn as chairman after his Nov. 19 arrest, but he remains on the board. The Tokyo District Court said it rejected Ghosn's request on Monday but did not elaborate on the reasons.

It had been unclear whether Ghosn could attend the board meeting. The court's approval was needed based on restrictions imposed for his release on bail. The restrictions say he cannot tamper with evidence, and attending the board meeting could be seen as putting pressure on Nissan employees.

Ghosn has been charged with falsifying financial reports in underreporting his compensation and breach of trust in making payments to a Saudi businessman and having Nissan shoulder investment losses. He insists he is innocent, saying the compensation was never decided or paid, the payments were for legitimate services and Nissan never suffered the losses.

Contact John McDermott at 843-937-5572 or follow him on Twitter at @byjohnmcdermott