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Confident investors push stocks higher

Associated Press

NEW YORK — Wall Street shook off concerns about inflation and pushed stocks higher Monday as a spate of merger news encouraged investors to return to the market. Rising oil prices, however, kept the gains in check.

With a deal announced in the energy sector and talks among online brokerages and airlines, companies’ appetites for mergers and acquisitions remained healthy, showing corporate America’s confidence in the economy.

Investors also seemed to have more confidence in the Federal Reserve’s ability to balance economic growth with rising prices, keeping both inflation and the specter of an economic slowdown in check. And finally, with the major indexes well off their 2005 highs, investors saw a chance to find bargains.

“I think you’ve got a sense of optimism out there we haven’t seen in a while,” said Bill Groenveld, head trader for vFinance Investments. “It’s not enough to make a big push higher, but just enough to start a slow, sustained climb. I think there’s faith in the Fed to manage things, and earnings growth has been good. So you’re seeing folks creep back into the market.”

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 38.94, or 0.38 percent, to 10,384.34.

Broader stock indicators also made gains. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index added 7.49, or 0.64 percent, to 1,178.84, and the Nasdaq composite index gained 12.32, or 0.63 percent, to 1,979.67.

Oil prices surged past $52 per barrel as concerns about summer gasoline demand continued to plague the market. A barrel of light crude was quoted at $52.03, up $1.07, on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The bond market moved lower as investors anticipated a larger surge in supply from a Treasury auction later in the week. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 4.29 percent from 4.26 percent late Friday. The dollar was mixed against most major currencies, while gold prices also rose.

The move in the bond market also signaled movement of capital from bonds back into stocks. The major indexes have held onto their recent gains, with very little of the frenzied selling that marked April’s trading. However, volume remained light and some analysts and traders felt investors remained very tentative. And even bullish analysts agreed that the market will remain sensitive to bad news and will send stocks lower at the first sign of negativity.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by more than 2 to 1 on the New York Stock Exchange, where preliminary consolidated volume came to 1.84 billion shares, compared with 1.73 billion on Friday.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies was up 6.40, or 1.07 percent, at 602.92.

Overseas, Japan’s Nikkei stock average fell 0.19 percent. In Europe, Britain’s FTSE 100 closed down 0.17 percent, France’s CAC-40 lost 0.33 percent for the session, and Germany’s DAX index dropped 0.43 percent.

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