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Dec 15, 3:31 PM EST

US stocks move broadly higher in late-afternoon trading


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AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

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U.S. stocks moved broadly higher in late-afternoon trading Friday, placing the major indexes on course for new highs. Technology companies, banks and health care stocks were among the biggest gainers. Investors were encouraged by signs that the Republican-backed tax overhaul bill was making progress in Congress. They also weighed the latest batch of company earnings news.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 27 points, or 1 percent, to 2,679 as of 3:17 p.m. Eastern Time. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 178 points, or 0.7 percent, to 24,687. The Nasdaq added 88 points, or 1.3 percent, to 6,945. Small-company stocks, which stand to benefit most from lower corporate tax rates, rose more than the rest of the market. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks picked up 28 points, or 1.9 percent, to 1,535.

THE QUOTE: "The tax bill seems to be the driver right now," said Erik Davidson, chief investment officer at Wells Fargo Private Bank. "The market just thinks it will get done."

TAXING TIME: Congressional Republicans finalized their sweeping tax package Friday, expanding its child tax credit to placate a reluctant GOP senator as they pushed to muscle the bill through Congress next week. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who had been a potential holdout, signaled that he intends to now support the bill. The move provided a major boost for Senate Republicans who are trying to hold together a razor-thin majority to pass the bill.

TECH RALLY: Technology stocks, which are leading the market this year, were notching solid gains. Intel rose $1.48, or 3.4 percent, to $44.74.

"We had seen some rotation out of it the last few weeks," said Jim Davis, regional investment strategist at U.S. Bank Wealth Management. "We're starting to see more of a change back to some of the sectors that have done well this year."

BANKING ON FINANCIALS: Banks and other financial companies were among the biggest gainers. Navient added 56 cents, or 4.4 percent, to $13.18.

BIG-BOX BEAT: Costco Wholesale rose 3.7 percent after the warehouse club operator's latest quarterly earnings and sales came in well above financial analysts' expectations. The stock added $6.84 to $193.37.

SPARKED: Shares in Jabil gained 1.6 percent after the electronics manufacturer posted a bigger profit and better revenue than analysts had anticipated. The stock picked up 43 cents to $27.88.

BUY BUY BUY: Discovery Communications was up 4.3 percent after John Malone, one of the company's directors, disclosed that he had bought more stock in the cable channel operator. The stock added 86 cents to $20.90.

CLOUDY SKIES: Oracle fell 4.4 percent after the second-quarter performance of the business software company's cloud-computing business and its forecast for its current quarter disappointed traders. The stock slid $2.21 to $47.98.

OFF THE RAILS: CSX slumped 7.4 percent after the railroad operator said CEO Hunter Harrison is on leave "due to unexpected complications from a recent illness." The stock was the biggest decliner in the S&P 500, shedding $4.24 to $53.07.

BOND YIELDS: Bond prices were little changed. The yield on the 10-year Treasury held steady at 2.35 percent late Thursday.

ENERGY: Oil futures finished mixed. Benchmark U.S. crude rose 26 cents to settle at $57.30 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price international oils, fell 8 cents to close at $63.23 per barrel in London.

METALS: Gold added 40 cents to $1,257.50 an ounce. Silver added 13 cents to $16.06 an ounce. Copper gained 6 cents, or 2 percent, to $3.13 a pound.

CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 112.63 yen from 112.18 yen on Thursday. The euro weakened to $1.1757 from $1.1792.

THE BITCOIN TRADE: Bitcoin futures surged on their fifth day of trading, climbing $1,260, or 7.5 percent, to $18,020 on the Cboe Futures Exchange. The futures allow investors to make bets on the future price of bitcoin. The average price of an actual bitcoin was $17,670 in trading on private exchanges, according to Coindesk. The price of the digital currency has soared this year, having begun 2017 under $1,000.

MARKETS OVERSEAS: Major stock indexes in Europe were mixed. Germany's DAX rose 0.3 percent, while France's CAC 40 shed 0.2 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 rose 0.6 percent after European Union leaders said they would allow the Brexit talks to move on to the next stage, including trade. Earlier in Asia, Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index dipped 0.6, while South Korea's Kospi climbed 0.5 percent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 1.1 percent.

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