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US: Dow nears 20,000, Nasdaq hits record as tech stocks gain

[BENGALURU] Wall Street opened slightly higher on Tuesday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average resuming its march towards 20,000 and the Nasdaq hitting a record, helped by gains in technology shares.

Energy stocks also rose, supported by oil prices. US crude was up 0.94 per cent at US$53.52, while Brent crude inched towards US$56 as a deal to limit supply comes into effect on Sunday.

The Dow Jones industrial average marked its seventh straight week of gains on Friday, feeding on optimism that President-elect Donald Trump's plans for deregulation and infrastructure spending would bolster the economy.

"The first day of trading in the final week of 2016 is not likely to reverse form last week's trading sessions," Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at First Standard Financial wrote in a note.

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Global markets made small gains on data that showed Chinese industry racked up its strongest profit growth in three months in November, suggesting the world's second-largest economy was improving.

Ten of the 11 major S&P 500 sectors were higher, with technology and energy stocks giving the broader index its biggest boost.

At 1436 GMT, the Dow Jones was up 29.42 points, or 0.15 per cent, at 19,963.23. The index was just 13 points away from the psychological milestone of 20,000 last Tuesday.

The S&P 500 was up 5.49 points, or 0.24 per cent, at 2,269.28.

The Nasdaq Composite was up 15.38 points, or 0.28 per cent, at 5,478.07, after hitting a record high of 5,509.56.

Apple was up 0.62 per cent at $117.24 and was the top stock on the three main Wall Street indexes.

Biogen shares rose two per cent to US$293.28 after the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Friday approved its drug to treat spinal muscular atrophy, the leading genetic cause of death in infants.

Ionis Pharma, which discovered the drug licensed to Biogen, was up 5.5 per cent at US$56.36.

Seattle Genetics Inc plunged 14 per cent after four people died in trials testing its experimental cancer drug, prompting the FDA to impose a clinical hold on the company's early-stage trials.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 1,697 to 894. On the Nasdaq, 1,353 issues rose and 920 fell.

The S&P 500 index showed 16 new 52-week highs and one new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 53 new highs and six new lows.