Deals and Hopes for Corporate Tax Cuts Drive Stocks Higher

NEW YORK (AP) -

U.S. stocks climbed again Monday and set more records as investors grew more certain Republicans will pass their tax plan this week. Technology companies climbed, as did banks and retailers, which are likely to see lower taxes.

Stocks have made hefty gains as the GOP appeared to shore up enough support to pass the bill, and Congressional Republicans are scheduled to start voting on the legislation Tuesday. The biggest gains have gone to companies that pay relatively higher tax rates, including smaller, U.S.-focused companies, banks and retailers.

Deal news also helped put investors in a buying mood. Two major food companies agreed to buy smaller snack makers: Campbell Soup plans to purchase pretzel maker Snyder’s-Lance for $4.87 billion and Hershey will buy Amplify Snack Brands for $1.2 billion.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index gained 14.35 points, or 0.5 percent, to 2,690.16. The Dow Jones industrial average advanced 140.46 points, or 0.6 percent, to 24,792.20. The Nasdaq composite traded above 7,000 for the first time but later slipped below that milestone. It rose 58.18 points, or 0.8 percent, to 6,994.76. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks climbed 18.50 points, or 1.2 percent, to 1,548.92.

Campbell Soup will buy pretzel maker Snyder’s-Lance for $50 a share, or $4.87 billion. Snyder’s climbed $3.25, or 6.9 percent, to $50.04. It has surged 27 percent since Tuesday’s close on reports Campbell Soup was preparing a bid. Campbell gained 7 cents to $49.66.

Chocolate and candy maker Hershey agreed to buy Amplify Snack Brands for $12 a share, or $1.2 billion. Amplify went public in August 2015 at $18 a share but had fallen steadily for more than a year. On Monday its stock jumped $5.01, or 71.6 percent, to $12.01. Hershey added 12 cents to $114.26.

Financial companies including regional U.S. banks did well Monday. Fifth Third Bancorp rose 44 cents, or 1.5 percent, to $30.47 and KeyCorp gained 40 cents, or 2 percent, to $20.16.

Among smaller companies, wheel and tire supplier Titan International climbed $1.05, or 8.9 percent, to $12.84. Clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch rose $1.12, or 6.7 percent, to $17.83. Instant-win lottery ticket maker Scientific Games advanced $1.25, or 2.5 percent, to $52.10.

Bitcoin futures began trading on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange on Sunday. They dipped $375, or 1.9 percent, to $19,125. Bitcoin futures started trading on the Cboe last week. Neither one involves actual bitcoin. Instead, they allow investors make bets on what the future price of bitcoin will do.

Benchmark U.S. crude declined 14 cents to $57.16 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, gained 18 cents to $63.41 a barrel in London.

Wholesale gasoline rose 2 cents to $1.67 a gallon. Heating oil picked up 2 cents to $1.93 a gallon. Natural gas jumped 13 cents, or 5.1 percent, to $2.75 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Gold rose $8 to $1,265.50 an ounce. Silver added 14 cents to $16.21 an ounce. Copper picked up 1 cent to $3.15 a pound.

Bond prices dipped. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.39 percent from 2.35 percent.

The dollar fell to 112.56 yen from 112.63 yen. The euro rose to $1.1784 from $1.1757.

Germany’s DAX rose 1.6 percent and the CAC 40 of France climbed 1.3 percent. In Britain, the FTSE 100 rose 0.6 percent.

Japan’s Nikkei rose 1.6 percent after the country’s exports surged in November, driven by robust demand for cars and manufacturing equipment. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong added 0.6 percent and the South Korean finished little changed.