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US: Stocks end at records, Dow closes above 24,000 for first time

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[NEW YORK] The Dow finished above 24,000 points for the first time Thursday, surging with the S&P 500 to fresh records as the Senate tax cut plan moved closer to passage.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 1.4 per cent, an increase of more than 330 points, to end the session at 24,272.35.

The broad-based S&P 500 gained 0.8 per cent to end at 2,647.58, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index advanced 0.7 per cent to 6,873.97, falling short of its prior record set two days ago.

Republicans in the Senate have so far set aside concerns about the long-awaited tax bill, including estimates it will balloon the deficit by at least US$1 trillion, and have supported the measure at decisive moments to move it towards a final vote.

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During the floor debate Thursday, Republican Senator John McCain came out in support of the measure, news that helped lift stocks to session highs.

Many analysts believe US stocks could still climb somewhat further if the tax cut becomes law, with some eyeing the S&P 500 at 2,800.

"While the market has definitely run in anticipation of tax reform, there is still some sort of skepticism," said Lindsey Bell, investment strategist CFRA Research.

"So the positive news we've gotten today is certainly boosting the market." Some of the biggest gains were from petroleum-linked stocks, with Dow members ExxonMobil and Chevron both winning more than one percent after Opec agreed to extend a production agreement to boost oil prices.

Dow Jones crosses 24,000 pts

Industrial shares also were strong, with Dow members Caterpillar and United Technologies gaining more than two percent and Honeywell International jumping 1.8 per cent.

CVS Health rose 4.4 per cent following reports the pharmacy chain is close to a US$65 billion deal to acquire insurer Aetna. Aetna climbed 0.3 per cent.

Kroger jumped 6.1 per cent as the supermarket chain reported slightly higher third-quarter earnings of US$397 million compared to the year-ago period as comparable sales rose 1.1 per cent.