Travel Stocks Rise as Dow Inches Closer to 20,000

NEW YORK (AP) -

Gains for banks and travel companies are pulling U.S. stock indexes to record levels on Tuesday. Travel companies like cruise lines and travel websites are giving consumer-focused companies a lift, and financial firms are rising thanks to a recovery in bond yields and interest rates. In the first few minutes of trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average came closer than ever to the 20,000-point mark.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow rose 92 points, or 0.5 percent, to 19,974 as of 1:10 p.m. Eastern time. It peaked at 19,987 earlier. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index gained 8 points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,270. The Nasdaq composite added 25 points, or 0.5 percent, to 5,482. The Dow and Nasdaq are currently on track for their highest closes ever. Those records were set on Dec. 13. The Russell 2000 index of small-company stocks jumped 10 points, or 0.7 percent, to 1,381.

TRAVEL LIGHT: Cruise line operator Carnival reported profit and sales that were stronger than expected. The company said bookings for trips in 2017 are stronger than they were at this time last year. It said both ticket sales and prices are up. Carnival stock rose $1.14, or 2.2 percent, to $52.44 and competitor Royal Caribbean gained $2.23, or 2.7 percent, to $84.78.

Travel website operator TripAdvisor jumped $2.75, or 5.9 percent, to $49.20 after it said it will start adding some Expedia brands to its instant hotel booking platform.

CONSUMERS IN FOCUS: Other consumer companies also gained ground. Used car dealership Carmax jumped $3.42, or 5.5 percent, to $65.78 after a strong earnings report, while Olive Garden parent Darden Restaurants rose 71 cents to $76.39 following its report. Darden stock is up 24 percent since Oct. 27.

UNBALANCED BREAKFAST: Cheerios maker General Mills said its profit slumped 9 percent during its latest quarter and the company lowered its outlook for the year as it tries to win back customers. Like many of its competitors, General Mills has been hurt as more Americans stay away from processed foods. The company, which also makes Betty Crocker cake mix, expects a bigger decline in organic sales. Its stock lost $2.04, or 3.2 percent, to $61.02. Other household goods makers like Tyson Foods, Kraft Heinz and Procter & Gamble also traded lower.

BONDS: Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.56 percent from 2.54 percent. Bond yields have jumped to long-time highs over the last few months but they fell sharply yesterday. Higher yields allow banks to charge more money for loans, so financial firms traded higher. Goldman Sachs added $3.87, or 1.6 percent, to $242.94 and Regions Financial rose 31 cents, or 2.2 percent, to $14.659

FRED UP: Retailer Fred’s soared after it agreed to buy 865 Rite Aid stores for $950 million. That’s a huge expansion for Fred’s, which had 648 total stores at the end of October. Only about half of them had pharmacies. Its stock surged $8.52, or 76.4 percent, to $19.67. That’s its highest price since March 2014.

The sale may also clear the way for Walgreens Boots Alliance, the largest U.S. drugstore operator, to buy Rite Aid. That $9.4 billion deal was announced more than a year ago. Rite Aid climbed 43 cents, or 5.3 percent, to $8.60 and Walgreens picked up 37 cents to $86.43. If the two deals close, Fred’s will become the third-largest drugstore chain in the U.S.

GASSED: Industrial gas company Praxair traded lower after it said it will combine with Germany’s Linde AG in an all-stock deal. The combined company will be worth some $65 billion, the firms said. Linde and Praxair began talking about a possible deal in August, but a few weeks later Linde said they’d failed to agree on details. Praxair slid $4.98, or 4 percent, to $118.02.

OIL: Benchmark U.S. crude gained 30 cents to $52.42 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, the international standard, jumped 50 cents to $55.42 a barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar, which has been trading at 14-year highs, continued to gain strength. It climbed to 117.76 yen from 117.24 yen. The euro fell to $1.0401 from $1.0404.

OVERSEAS: The CAC-40 in France rose 0.6 percent. Britain’s FTSE 100 was up 0.3 percent, and so was the German DAX. Japanese stocks reached another fresh high for the year after the Bank of Japan left its current monetary policy unchanged. It said the “moderate recovery” of the world’s third-largest economy was on track. The Nikkei 225 index advanced 0.5 percent, and South Korea’s Kospi added 0.2 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index fell 0.5 percent.