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Stocks Up Midday; Rate Hike Expected   12/13 12:47

    U.S. stocks moved higher in afternoon trading Wednesday, driven by gains in 
industrial and health care companies. 

   (AP) -- U.S. stocks moved higher in afternoon trading Wednesday, driven by 
gains in industrial and health care companies. Banks lagged the most. Energy 
stocks also fell as the price of crude oil headed lower. Smaller company stocks 
notched some of the biggest gains after the GOP leadership in the House and 
Senate reached a deal on a tax package. Traders were also looking ahead to an 
afternoon announcement on interest rates from the Federal Reserve.

   KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 2 points, or 0.1 
percent, to 2,666 as of 1:31 p.m. Eastern Time. The Dow Jones industrial 
average gained 95 points, or 0.4 percent, to 24,600. The Nasdaq added 12 
points, or 0.2 percent, to 6,874. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company 
stocks picked up 8 points, or 0.6 percent, to 1,524. The S&P 500 and the Dow 
have closed at all-time highs the past two days.

   TAX DEAL: Republican leadership in the House and Senate forged an agreement 
Wednesday on a sweeping overhaul of the nation's tax laws. The move paves the 
way for final votes next week to slash taxes for businesses and give many 
Americans modest tax cuts starting next year. The news helped boost shares in 
smaller companies.

   "If you look at the mix today, small caps are doing better than large caps," 
said Sameer Samana, global technical and equity strategist for Wells Fargo 
Investment Institute. "Clearly, they would be the better beneficiaries because 
they tend to pay higher tax rates."

   FED WATCH: The Fed is widely expected to raise its key short-term interest 
rate for the third time this year as the U.S. economy strengthens. Investors 
appear confident that the economy can withstand a gradual increase in rates. 
However, they will be keeping a close eye on Fed Chair Janet Yellen's comments 
during a news conference for signals on how aggressive the Fed might be in 
raising rates next year.

   "The current expectation on the part of the Fed is they will raise interest 
rates three times next year, but clearly one of the debates that's been ongoing 
is what does the low level of inflation mean for the path going forward?" 
Samana said.

   INFLATION: New inflation data did nothing to alter expectations of another 
Fed rate hike. The Labor Department said Wednesday that U.S. consumer prices 
increased 0.4 percent last month as gasoline prices surged. Prices at the pump 
increased a sharp 7.3 percent after falling in October. Excluding volatile food 
and energy prices, so-called core consumer inflation rose a modest 0.1 percent 
in November.

   INDUSTRIALS GAIN: Industrials sector stocks accounted for much of the 
market's gains. Caterpillar climbed $5, or 3.5 percent, to $148.37.

   MENDING FENCES: Western Digital rose 2.3 percent after the hard drive maker 
resolved a dispute with its partner Toshiba over Toshiba's plan to sell its 
flash memory business. Western Digital climbed $1.85 to $83.62.

   APPLE TAKES A BITE: Finisar jumped 29 percent after Apple said it will 
invest $390 million in the fiber optic component supplier so it can make more 
lasers used in facial recognition technology. Finisar increased $5.60 to 
$24.90. Apple was up 86 cents, or 0.5 percent, to $172.56.

   DELIVERY DEAL: Target rose 2 percent after the retailer said it plans to 
boost its same-day delivery capability by paying $550 million for Shipt. The 
delivery service company charges members $99 a year and sends people out to 
choose and deliver groceries from stores. Target climbed $1.23 to $62.25.

   ROSY OUTLOOK: Honeywell International rose 1.2 percent after the industrial 
conglomerate raised its annual profit forecast and said fourth quarter sales 
have been strong. The stock gained $1.92 to $155.66.

   OUT THE DOOR: Diebold fell 4.1 percent after the ATM and security systems 
maker said CEO Andreas Mattes has resigned. The stock gave up 75 cents to 

   FINANCIALS FLOUNDER: Banks and other financial stocks declined the most. 
Charles Schwab slid 72 cents, or 1.4 percent, to $50.84.

   ENERGY: Oil prices veered lower, giving up early gains. Benchmark U.S. crude 
fell 31 cents to $56.83 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent 
crude, used to price international oils, slid 70 cents, or 1.1 percent, to 
$62.64 per barrel in London.

   The decline in oil prices weighed on several energy stocks. National Oilwell 
Varco lost 50 cents, or 1.5 percent, to $32.64.

   BOND YIELDS: Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 
2.38 percent from 2.40 percent late Tuesday.

   CURRENCIES: The dollar fell to 113.07 Japanese yen from 113.58 yen late 
Tuesday. The euro strengthened to $1.1770 from $1.1737.

   THE BITCOIN TRADE: Bitcoin futures fell $1,480, or 8 percent, to $16,540 on 
the Cboe Futures Exchange. The futures allow investors to make bets on the 
future price of bitcoin. The average price of an actual bitcoin was $16,070 in 
trading on private exchanges, according to Coindesk. The price of the digital 
currency has soared this year, having begun 2017 under $1,000.

   MARKETS OVERSEAS: In Europe, Germany's DAX fell 0.4 percent, while France's 
CAC-40 slid 0.5 percent. London's FTSE 100 shed 0.1 percent. Earlier in Asia, 
Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 1.5 percent, while Tokyo's Nikkei 225 shed 0.5 
percent. Seoul's Kospi added 0.8 percent. Sydney's S&P-ASX 200 picked up 0.1 
percent and India's Sensex added 0.4 percent. 


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