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An outburst of merger activity sent stocks higher Monday, as Bank of America's proposed purchase of FleetBoston Financial and Anthem's plan to buy rival WellPoint Health Networks signaled increasing confidence in the nation's business climate.
The Dow Jones industrial average closed up 25.70 points, or 0.3%, at 9,608.16, after falling 1.4% last week. Other key indexes also advanced slightly after declining last week. The InformationWeek 100 rose 0.37 point, or 0.1%, to 290.66. The Nasdaq composite index rose 17.32 points, or 0.9%, to close at 1,882.91, following last week's decline of 2.5%. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 2.22 points, or 0.2%, to 1,031.13, having shed 1.7% the previous week. The Nasdaq-100 tracking stock rose 1 cent to $34.21, as more than 63.5 million shares changed hands.
Bank of America said it plans to buy FleetBoston in a $47 billion deal that will create one of the world's biggest banking companies and the nation's largest consumer bank. Health insurer Anthem said it would buy larger rival WellPoint Health Networks for about $16.4 billion in cash and stock in a deal that combines the nation's two largest Blue Cross Blue Shield concerns.
Microsoft, which triggered Friday's decline by losing 8%, rose 30 cents to $26.91. Chairman Bill Gates on Monday gave the first public demo of Longhorn, the next generation of its Windows operating system.
There was also positive news out of Washington. A Commerce Department report showed a dip in new-home sales last month, but the level of sales was stronger than forecast. That's a sign the housing market continues to help spur the economic recovery.