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Stocks Rising Early Thursday           12/13 11:04

   U.S. stocks are mixed in morning trading Thursday as technology and health 
care companies rise.

   NEW YORK (AP) -- U.S. stocks are mixed in morning trading Thursday as 
technology and health care companies rise. Safer, high-dividend stocks in real 
estate and utilities are also climbing. Banks are falling, and smaller 
companies continue to lag their larger rivals.

   The European Central Bank said it will end its bond-buying economic stimulus 
program at the end of the year, but trimmed its forecasts for economic growth 
across Europe. Government bond yields in Europe are falling.

   KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 index added 5 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,656 at 
10:30 a.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 113 points, or 
0.5 percent, to 24,640. The Nasdaq composite edged up 8 points, or 0.1 percent, 
to 7,106.

   Trading has been turbulent this week, but the S&P 500 is on pace for its 
third gain in four days.

   The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies fell 2 points, or 0.2 percent, 
to 1,452. It's fallen almost 17 percent since setting a record high in late 
August, and over the last few days it's traded at its lowest level since 
September 2017. Among other issues, that reflects investors' fears about 
slowing economic growth in the U.S. and rising interest rates. Smaller 
companies are more vulnerable in times of slower growth, and they tend to carry 
higher levels of debt than larger companies do. Higher rates make those debts 
more costly.

   ECB ENDS STIMULUS: The European Central Bank said it will halt its 
bond-buying program, even though the region's economy is slowing. It has been 
pumping money into the economy for almost four years and spent about $3 
trillion in the process. The bank isn't ending its stimulus program entirely, 
as it will continue to invest money from maturing bonds and will take other 
steps to encourage banks to lend money.

   Credit conditions around the world are gradually getting tighter, as the 
Federal Reserve has been steadily raising interest rates for three years and is 
letting its balance sheet shrink.

   European investors appeared to take the news in stride. Germany's DAX 
advanced 0.1 percent while the CAC 40 in France was down 0.1 percent. Britain's 
FTSE 100 index was little changed. Bond prices rose and yields fell in the 
U.K., Germany, France and other countries.

   QUACKING ABOUT A DEAL: Insurer Aflac rose 4.6 percent to $44.86 after it 
confirmed reports that it's in discussions with Japan Post Holdings about a 
possible investment. Aflac said the Japanese shipping and financial 
conglomerate might take a minority stake in the company.

   CLEANUP IN AISLE FOUR: CVS Health fell after the New York Post reported that 
a U.S. District Court judge appears likely to block its purchase of health 
insurer Aetna at a hearing next week. CVS announced the closing of the $69 
billion Aetna deal in late November after the U.S. Department of Justice 
cleared it. But Judge Richard Leon has reportedly said in hearings that he 
still has concerns about the antitrust implications of the deal. Citing sources 
close to the case, the Post said Leon might issue an order barring the two 
companies from integrating their operations.

   CVS fell 2.5 percent to $72.66, and it's down 8.6 percent since an earlier 
hearing on Dec. 3.

   GE JUICED UP: General Electric climbed 10 percent to $7.39 after JMorgan 
Chase analyst C. Stephen Tusa upgraded the stock to "Neutral" from 
"Underweight" saying it believes the risks and rewards to the stock are 
balanced. GE has lost almost 60 percent of its value this year and has plunged 
almost 90 percent since the beginning of 2017. The company recently replaced 
its CEO and slashed its dividend in an attempt to shore up its finances, but 
analysts are concerned that several of its businesses are years away from being 
profitable.

   BREXIT: British Prime Minister Theresa May won a confidence vote among 
lawmakers from within her Conservative Party, which means she won't face 
another leadership challenge for at least another year. Earlier this week the 
pound fell to 20-month lows after May pulled a vote on her Brexit divorce deal 
with the European Union. It's recovered slightly since then.

   BONDS: Bond prices were little changed. The yield on the 10-year Treasury 
note remained at 2.90 percent.

   ASIA: The Japanese Nikkei 225 index gained 1 percent and Hong Kong's Hang 
Seng jumped 1.3 percent while the Kospi in South Korea added 0.6 percent.

   CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 113.61 yen from 113.22 yen. The euro fell to 
$1.1344 from $1.1367. The British pound edged down to $1.2630 from $1.2634.

   ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude oil rose 1 percent to $51.68 per barrel in New 
York. Brent crude, the international standard, rose 0.3 percent to $60.31 per 
barrel in London.


(BE)

 
 
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