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US: Dow, S&P 500 end at records as banking shares gain

[NEW YORK] The Dow and S&P 500 pushed to fresh records on Tuesday, with financial shares especially strong as Congress made progress on the tax cut plan and amid expectations for higher interest rates.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.5 per cent to 24,504.80, its third straight record close.

The broad-based S&P 500 gained 0.2 per cent to 2,664.11, also a third consecutive high, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index dipped 0.2 per cent to finish at 6,862.32.

Large banks such as Goldman Sachs and Wells Fargo rallied ahead of Wednesday's expected Federal Reserve interest rate hike. Outgoing Fed Chair Janet Yellen is slated to speak at a news conference following the announcement, and investors will be watching closely for signals additional rate hikes in 2018.

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The Fed meeting comes as data showed US wholesale inflation rising in November in part due to higher gasoline prices.

Analysts also pointed to signs that key House and Senate Republican lawmakers were nearing agreement on a unified version of the much-anticipated tax cut bill in Congress. Senator John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, said a deal could come as soon as Tuesday, Bloomberg reported.

Aerospace giant Boeing advanced 2.4 per cent after announcing it would increase its dividend by 20 per cent and undertake a new US$18 billion share repurchase program.

Toymaker Mattel slumped 4.9 per cent as it warned that profit margins would fall in the fourth quarter due in part to weak demand for products and elevated freight and logistics costs.

Comcast rose 2.8 per cent after abandoning an effort to acquire assets from 21st Century Fox. The move cleared the path for an acquisition of Fox assets by Disney, which rose 0.6 per cent.

AFP