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Stocks close up on hopes for Greek debt deal

A Wall Street sign in front of the

A Wall Street sign in front of the New York Stock Exchange on April 22, 2010. Credit: AP / Mark Lennihan

Stocks advanced Monday as investors grew more optimistic that there would be a breakthrough in talks between Greece and its lenders.

At the close on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 103.8 points, about 0.6 percent, to 18,119.8. The Standard ... Poor's 500 index gained nearly 13 points, about 0.6 percent, to nearly 2,123. The Nasdaq composite added nearly 37 points, about 0.7 percent, to nearly 5,154.

As the markets closed, the price for Aug. 15 contracts for U.S. benchmark crude oil was up 23 cents, about 1 percent, at $60.20 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Health care stocks were among the leading gainers on deal news in the sector.

GREECE IS THE WORD: Greece and its creditors remain in tense talks. The Mediterranean nation needs more loans from its fellow eurozone states and the International Monetary Fund to enable it to make a June 30 debt payment. The country has been negotiating for four months on what economic reforms it should undertake in exchange for the loans.

ANALYST'S TAKE: "Financial markets are starting the week in the hopeful belief that a 'last minute' deal between the Greek government and its official creditors can be achieved," said Neil MacKinnon, global macro strategist at VTB Capital.

HEALTHY DEAL: In the United States, health insurers Cigna and Anthem were sharply higher after Anthem made a $47 billion bid to buy its competitor. Anthem, which runs the largest Blue Cross Blue Shield health insurance network, closed up $5.98, or 3.6 percent, at $171.04. Cigna was up $7.34, or 4.7 percent, to close at $162.60.

Cigna described the bid as "inadequate" and not in the best interests of its shareholders.

Other health insurers rose on speculation of more mergers in the industry. Aetna rose $3.98, or 3.2 percent, to close $128.05.


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