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US stocks finish higher despite Iraq fears

US stocks on Friday finished higher as investors weighed the implications of escalating sectarian violence in Iraq that has lifted oil prices to nine-month highs.

NEW YORK: US stocks on Friday finished higher as investors weighed the implications of escalating sectarian violence in Iraq that has lifted oil prices to nine-month highs.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average advanced 41.55 points (0.25 per cent) to 16,775.74.

The broad-based S&P 500 gained 6.05 points (0.31 per cent) at 1,936.16, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index rose 13.02 points (0.30 per cent) to 4,310.65.

Iraq remained at the centre of attention as Shiite Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani urged the people to defend the country against jihadist insurgents while President Barack Obama said he was examining options short of sending in US troops.

Insurgents seized Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, earlier this week and have launched attacks approaching Baghdad.

US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for July rose 38 cents to close at $106.91 a barrel, a fresh nine-month high. However, the increase in US oil prices was much smaller than Thursday's.

Michael James, managing director of equity trading at Wedbush Securities, said the market remains in "a bullish uptrend" and that Iraq will not significantly affect that sentiment "until there's some material concerns that present themselves."

But Mace Blicksilver, director of Marblehead Asset Management, characterised the Iraq situation as "very unsettling."

"Iraq is a place we forgot about and suddenly we see this unravelling and it has very dramatic implications," he said.

Computer-chip giant Intel, a Dow component, lifted its second-quarter and full-year revenue forecast, citing better-than-expected demand for business PCs. Shares jumped 6.5 per cent.

The Intel outlook propelled other equities whose businesses are based around PCs, including Dow component Microsoft (+1.3 per cent) and Hewlett-Packard (+5.0 per cent).

Travel giant Priceline announced a $2.6 billion acquisition of online restaurant reservation service OpenTable. Priceline fell 2.9 per cent, while OpenTable shot up 47.4 per cent.

The deal lifted some of OpenTable's peers. Yelp, an online listing and reviews website for restaurants and stores, jumped 13.6 per cent. Groupon, which provides online coupons, rose 3.9 per cent.

Citigroup dropped 1.4 per cent following a report that US prosecutors have demanded $10 billion to settle claims the bank misled investors on mortgage-backed bonds sold before the 2008 financial crisis

Apparel retailer Express jumped 20.4 per cent after disclosing that shareholder Sycamore Partners, which currently holds 9.9 per cent of shares, is interested in acquiring the company.

Bond prices were mixed. The yield on the 10-year US Treasury rose to 2.60 per cent from 2.59 per cent on Thursday, while the 30-year held steady at 3.41 per cent. Bond prices and yields move inversely.

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