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Dow, S&P 500 at records as investors eye Iraq, GE deal

The Dow and S&P 500 edged to fresh records on Friday as the chances rose for GE's acquisition of parts of France's Alstom and fighting in Iraq lifted oil prices.

NEW YORK: The Dow and S&P 500 edged to fresh records on Friday as the chances rose for GE's acquisition of parts of France's Alstom and fighting in Iraq lifted oil prices.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 25.62 points (0.15 per cent) to 16,947.08, a new high.

The S&P 500 advanced 3.39 points (0.17 per cent) to 1,962.87, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index gained 8.71 points (0.20 per cent) to 4,368.04.

General Electric shares added 0.2 per cent to $26.98 after the French government said it favored the company's proposal to take over Alstom's energy assets for $16.8 billion over a rival bid by Germany's Siemens and Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

As part of the deal, France will take a dominant 20 per cent stake in Alstom by buying two-thirds of the shares owned by French group Bouygues.

Meanwhile, US oil prices moved to a fresh nine-month high of $107.26 a barrel as the battle against Sunni extremists showed no signs of abating. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's leading Shiite cleric, called on people to unite to fight the insurgents.

Used-car company CarMax surged 16.5 per cent higher as it reported record quarterly sales and earnings for the first quarter that easily topped expectations. Total unit sales rose nearly 10 per cent.

Other companies to see gains included Dow components Caterpillar (+2.0 per cent) and Johnson & Johnson (+1.4 per cent), Wells Fargo (+1.7 per cent) and American Airlines (+3.5 per cent).

Shire Pharmaceuticals, which is based in Dublin but listed in London and New York, rejected a $46 billion takeover proposal from US company AbbVie. Shire said the bid "fundamentally undervalued" the company and objected to AbbVie's plan to relocate its headquarters in Britain for tax purposes.

Shire climbed 16.3 per cent, while AbbVie dropped 1.4 per cent.

Software company Oracle fell 4.0 per cent as fiscal fourth-quarter earnings came in at 92 cents per share, three cents less than expected. Analysts said the company's weak performance in cloud computing software was particularly disappointing.

Gun manufacturer Smith & Wesson slumped 8.7 per cent as the company's outlook for fiscal 2015 sales of $585-600 million lagged analyst estimates for $621.9 million.

Bond prices were mixed. The yield on the 10-year US Treasury held steady at 2.62 per cent, the same level as Thursday. The yield on the 30-year bond, slipped to 3.45 per cent from 3.46 per cent. Bond prices and yields move inversely.

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