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US: Stocks end at records as Kraft Heinz, Unilever surge

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[NEW YORK] US stocks edged to fresh records Friday, shrugging off early weakness as news that Kraft Heinz plans to seek a takeover of Unilever sent shares of both companies surging.

All three major indices again ended at all-time highs, albeit very narrowly in the case of the Dow and S&P 500.

The Dow and S&P 500 spent much of the day in negative territory, with analysts pointing to profit-taking and the need for the market to digest earlier gains.

But a late surge lifted them into positive territory, amid merger speculation in multiple sectors.

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The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished barely higher than the record close Thursday to end the day at 20,624.05, up 0.02 per cent.

The broad-based S&P 500 added 0.2 per cent at 2,351.16, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index rose 0.4 per cent to 5,838.59.

Kraft Heinz jumped 10.7 while Unilever surged 14.0 per cent after Unilever rejected a bid worth about US$143 billion. However, Kraft Heinz signalled it would still pursue a deal.

Other consumer products stocks also rose on speculation the Kraft Heinz talks could spur other deals. Colgate Palmolive gained 4.3 per cent, Kimberly Clark 4.1 per cent, and Clorox 2.8 per cent.

T-Mobile advanced 5.5 per cent and Sprint rose 3.4 per cent following a report that Sprint parent SoftBank planned to approach T-Mobile about a merger of the two wireless carriers.

United Health Group fell 3.7 per cent on reports that the Justice Department joined a whistleblower lawsuit alleging the company overcharged Medicare hundreds of millions of dollars.

Boeing gained 1.1 per cent following a visit by Mr Trump to a South Carolina plant to commemorate the unveiling of its latest 787 "Dreamliner" plane.