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US: Stocks end at fresh records on strong data, higher oil prices


[NEW YORK] Wall Street stocks surged to fresh records on Wednesday, boosted by strong US manufacturing data, higher oil prices and continued strength in technology shares.

All three major US indices closed at new all-time highs, with the Dow Jones Industrial up 0.4 per cent to 24,922.68.

The broad-based S&P 500 rose 0.6 per cent to end at 2,713.06, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index gained 0.8 per cent to 7,065.53, its second day closing above 7,000.

Investors remain broadly bullish on the US economy amid improving data and expectations that the just-enacted tax cut will boost corporate earnings.

The manufacturing sector continued to expand at a strong pace in December, lifting the Institute for Supply Management's purchasing managers index to its second highest level in seven years.

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"The economy is in really good shape. It is hard to find a sector that is weak," economist Joel Naroff said, adding that fourth-quarter US growth could come in at three per cent or higher.

Petroleum-linked shares rose sharply as oil prices rallied on the upheaval in Iran and persistently cold weather in the US.

Dow member ExxonMobil gained 2.0 per cent, Apache rose 2.3 per cent and Schlumberger added 2.6 per cent.

Technology shares were another strong group, with Amazon, Facebook and Google-parent Alphabet all up more than one percent.

IBM surged 2.8 per cent following an upgrade from RBC Capital Markets.

Dow member Intel dropped 3.4 per cent after British website the Register said Intel chips were vulnerable to a security bug. Intel disputed aspects of the report and said the issue was not unique to Intel products.

American Express gained 0.6 per cent despite disclosing that it will take a one-time of charge of US$2.4 billion in the fourth quarter connected to the US tax reform.

South Carolina utility company SCANA surged 22.6 per cent after striking a deal worth US$14.6 billion to be acquired by Dominion Energy. The transaction includes a US$1.7 billion write-off for SCANA's shuttered South Carolina nuclear projects. Dominion shares dropped 3.9 per cent.


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