Sysco merger pushes S&P 500 to record high

Sysco merger boosts the stock market to another record close Monday. Hope for a longer-term budget deal in Washington also helped.

Mark Duncan/AP/File
A driver for Sysco unloads supplies for a restaurant in Cleveland, Dec. 21, 2010. Sysco said Monday that it is buying privately held US Foods for about $3.5 billion in cash and stock. When the deal closes, Sysco expects the addition of US Foods to boost its annual sales by about 46 percent to around $65 billion.

Food distributor Sysco rose the most in the Standard & Poor's 500 index after the company announced an agreement to buy rival US Foods in an $8.2 billion deal. Sysco's stock jumped $3.31, or 9.7 percent, to $37.62.

Stocks extended a rally from Friday that was driven by a report of solid US job gains. That boosted investor confidence that the economy was growing strongly enough to handle any pullback in the Federal Reserve's economic stimulus.

"We're just continuing the bullishness that we've had," said Rex Macey, Chief Investment Officer of Wilmington Trust Investment Advisors, a unit of Wilmington Trust Bank.

The S&P 500 index climbed 3.28 points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,808.37. That put the index a point above its previous record close of 1,807.23 set November 27.

Other indexes also made small gains. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 5.33 points, less than 0.1 percent, to 16,025.53. The Nasdaq composite increased 6.23 points, or 0.2 percent, to 4,068.75.

Stocks were also supported by reports that U.S. lawmakers were moving closer to reaching a longer-term budget deal, said Bill Stone, chief investment strategist at PNC Wealth Management Group.

Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, said Sunday on ABC that budget negotiations are making progress and moving in the right direction.

The stock market stuttered in October after political wrangling over the budget caused a 16-day partial government shutdown that crimped economic growth and hurt consumer confidence.

A budget deal "could be viewed as positive, in the sense that it is putting to bed one more possible disruption," Stone said.

In other corporate news, American Airlines rose 65 cents, or 2.7 percent, to $24.60 on the company's first day of trading after completing its merger with US Airways.

There were no major economic reports for investors to focus on.

The stock market has climbed to record levels this year as corporations have kept increasing their earnings and the Fed has kept up its $85 billion-a-month bond purchasing program. The Fed's purchases have pushed up bond prices, lowered interest rates and encouraged investors to buy stocks.

Fed policymakers will meet next week, though few analysts are predicting that they will make changes to their bond-buying program. The meeting runs from Dec. 17 to Dec. 18.

Improvements in the labor market since September last year, when the Fed started its most recent round of stimulus, provided the most powerful argument for reducing bond purchases, St. Louis Fed President James Bullard said on Monday. Bullard, a voting member of the Fed's policy committee, was speaking in St. Louis.

In government bond trading, the yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.85 percent from 2.86 percent Friday.

In commodities trading, the price of oil fell 31 cents, or 0.3 percent, to $97.34 a barrel. Gold rose $5.20, or 0.4 percent, to $1,234.20 an ounce.

Among other stocks making big moves:

— Twitter climbed $4.19, or 9.3 percent, to $49.14, its highest close since going public last month. The company said last week that it was developing its targeted ads based on user's web browsing history.

— Edwards Lifesciences slipped $3.56, or 5.4 percent, to $62.73 after the Wall Street Journal reported that the company forecast lower sales of its Sapien heart valves.

— McDonald's fell $1.08, or 1.1 percent, to $95.72 after the company said a key sales figure fell last month. Sales at US restaurants open at least a year fell 0.8 percent.

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