A Bloomberg News article in the March 20 Business section incorrectly characterized the context of Wednesday's performance of the Standard and Poor's 500-stock index. The index rose for a sixth day, which was its longest streak of gains since May 2001. (Published 3/21/03)

U.S. stocks rose for a fifth day, giving the Dow Jones industrial average and the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index their longest winning streaks in almost two years, amid a countdown to war with Iraq.

Health care shares such as Pfizer and Merck led the advance after Bayer, Germany's largest drugmaker, won the first case to go to trial in the United States over Baycol, its withdrawn cholesterol medication.

Indexes bounced between gains and losses before turning higher in the final half hour of trading. Some investors said prices already reflected optimism that U.S.-led forces will prevail in Iraq within days or weeks.

The Dow rose 52.31, or 0.6 percent, to 8194.23. The S&P rose 3.66, or 0.4 percent, to 866.45, with health care shares contributing a third of the advance.

The Nasdaq composite index rose 8.28, or 0.6 percent, to 1400.55.

Gains were muted as the Federal Reserve left its benchmark interest rate at its lowest point since 1961 and said it couldn't assess the outlook for the economy. A Commerce Department report showed that housing starts fell in February by the most in nine years.

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.

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. Bayer's U.S. shares soared $4.16, to $15.40.

Chemical companies, which use oil as a raw material, gained as oil prices slid. DuPont rose $1.38, to $40.08, and Dow Chemical rose 49 cents, to $28.86.

Procter & Gamble, the biggest U.S. maker of household goods, rose $1.12, to $86.62, after it agreed to buy German hair-care products company Wella for $6.9 billion. Boeing, the world's biggest airplane maker, added 93 cents, to $27.83. The company and General Dynamics won another chance to convince a federal claims court that the Navy improperly canceled a contract to build the A-12 stealth aircraft and isn't entitled to recoup $2.3 billion. General Dynamics rose $1.49, to $57.75.

Human Genome Sciences 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.

Other Indicators

* The New York Stock Exchange composite index rose 16.21, to 4800.16; the American Stock Exchange index fell 1.33, to 819.32; and the Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks rose 2.60, to 368.00.

* Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones by 6 to 5 on the NYSE, where trading volume fell to 1.54 billion shares, from 1.67 billion on Monday. On the Nasdaq Stock Market, advancers outnumbered decliners by 5 to 4 and volume totaled 1.57 billion, down from 1.84 billion.

* The price of the Treasury's 10-year note fell $5.63 per $1,000 invested, and its yield rose to 3.91 percent, from 3.84 percent on Monday.

* The dollar rose against the Japanese yen and the euro. In late New York trading, a dollar bought 118.86 yen, up from 118.44 late Monday, and a euro bought $1.0633, down from $1.0635.

* Light, sweet crude oil for April delivery settled at $31.67, down $3.26, on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

* Gold for current delivery rose to $337.60 a troy ounce, from $337.10 on Monday, on the New York Mercantile Exchange's Commodity Exchange.