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US: Stocks weather late-breaking storm, end higher

[NEW YORK] Wall Street stocks rose Monday but late-breaking news on an investigation into President Donald Trump's personal lawyer cut into the gains.

Shortly before the closing bell, The New York Times reported the Federal Bureau of Investigation had raided the offices of Mr Trump's longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished up 0.2 per cent at 23,979.10, shedding more than 130 points in the last 20 minutes of trading.

The broad-based S&P 500 gained 0.3 per cent to 2,613.16, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index rose 0.5 per cent to 6,950.34.

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"It appears like it's market-moving," Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities, said of the Cohen news.

"It doesn't appear as though it's good news."

Cohen has admitted to paying porn actress Stephanie Clifford US$130,000. Ms Clifford, who goes by the name Stormy Daniels, claims she received the money to cover up a sexual encounter with Mr Trump more than a decade ago.

Prior to that development, US stocks appeared headed for a calm, controversy-free session, rising on a dearth of new developments in the ongoing US-China trade showdown that has alarmed markets in recent weeks.

Analysts are looking ahead to earnings season, which begins in earnest with JPMorgan Chase and other large banks and is expected be strong.

"It illustrates the importance of maintaining a long-term perspective and it's not smart to make investment decisions based on the last tweet," said Alan Skrainka, chief investment officer at Cornerstone Wealth Management.

"Earnings will remind us that fundamentals matter more."

Merck surged 5.3 per cent after reporting successful results of a clinical trial for its Keytruda treatment for lung cancer.

Gene Therapy company AveXis shot up 81.6 per cent as it agreed to be acquired by Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis for US$8.7 billion.

Monsanto jumped 6.2 per cent following a report the US Justice Department would approve its acquisition by Bayer, the last major hurdle facing the deal.

AFP