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Stocks nudge up indexes to close with records, again

A street sign for Wall Street hangs near

A street sign for Wall Street hangs near the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2014. Credit: AP

Financial markets edged higher Monday, led by gains in health care stocks, keeping the market at record levels. Home builders got a lift after Toll Brothers said that its revenue rose 29 percent in the most recent quarter. Cable companies slumped after President Barack Obama said regulators should reclassify the Internet as a public utility.

At the close on Wall Street, the Standard & Poor's 500 index had risen 6.31 points, or 0.31 percent, to 2,038.23. The Dow Jones industrial average had gained 39.65 points, or 0.23 percent, to 17,613.58. The Nasdaq composite was up 19.08 points, or 0.41 percent, at 4,651.62.

NET NEUTRALITY: Cable companies dropped after Obama said Internet providers shouldn't be allowed to cut deals with online services like Netflix, Amazon or YouTube to prioritize their content. In a statement released by the White House Monday, the president called for an "explicit ban" on such deals. Time Warner Cable fell $5.61, or 3.8 percent, to $137.99. Comcast fell $2.11, or 3.8 percent, to $53.04.

MILKING IT: Dean Foods, a milk distributor, jumped $2.02, or 14 percent, to $16.44, after the company reported a third-quarter loss that wasn't as bad as investors had anticipated.

RETAIL EARNINGS: This week investors will be taking stock of retail company earnings to gain insight into how much American shoppers are spending before the holiday season. Macy's, Nordstrom and Wal-Mart will report their earnings. The government will also release its retail sales data for October on Friday.

HOLDING AT THE HIGHS: Stocks are trading at record levels, having rebounded following a sharp slump at the beginning of October. Despite worries about flagging growth overseas, investors are focusing on a strengthening U.S. economy and improving company earnings.

HOME BUILDERS: Toll Brothers reported a 29 percent jump in revenue in for the quarter ending Oct. 29th. The company's stock climbed $1.20, or 3.7 percent, to $33.42. Other home builders also rose. PulteGroup climbed 65 cents, or 3.2 percent, to $20.62

THE QUOTE: Stocks, though no longer cheap, are still attractive because of lower returns on options elsewhere, said Bill Stone, the chief investment strategist for PNC Wealth Management. Bond yields have fallen this year, and rates on cash deposits remain close to zero.

"My base line is that stocks will continue to chug along," Stone said.

RUBLE FLOATS: The biggest development in Europe was news that Russia's central bank has decided to allow the ruble to trade freely. The move had been planned for next year. The ruble has come under sustained pressure in the face of Western sanctions over Ukraine and plummeting oil prices. The ruble has lost nearly half its value against the dollar this year. The move appears to have eased the pressure on the ruble, which strengthened sharply on the news, trading up 3.6 percent at around 45 rubles a dollar. Russia's benchmark RTS stock index rose 3.8 percent.

ENERGY: Oil prices fell back after starting the day higher. Benchmark U.S. crude fell $1.25 to $77.40 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude dropped $1.05 to $82.34 a barrel.

Oil dropped amid speculation that member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC, are in no rush to cut production to shore up prices following a steep decline this year. Bloomberg reported that Kuwait's oil minister said he doesn't expect OPEC to agree a cut in production at the group's next meeting in Vienna on Nov. 27.

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