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U.S. stocks start 2018 with gains as technology leads again

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    Stock trader Chris Lotito studies a computer screen at the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday.

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    Stock trader John Panin works at the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday.

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    A trader works at the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday.

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    Traders work at the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday.

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NEW YORK — Technology and health care companies are jumping Tuesday as U.S. stocks start the new year the same way they spent the last one: rising steadily and setting records. Energy companies, which struggled in 2017, also climbed higher. Bond yields are climbing and high-dividend companies are sinking.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 18 points, or 0.7 percent, to 2,692 as of 3:25 p.m. Eastern. The S&P 500 is once again trading around record highs after its 19 percent climb in 2017. The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 76 points, or 0.3 percent, to 24,795. The Nasdaq composite jumped 91 points, or 1.3 percent, to 6,995. The Russell 2000 index, which consists of smaller company stocks, gained 9 points, or 0.6 percent, to 1,544.

Facebook rose $4.26, or 2.4 percent, to $180.72 and graphics chipmaker Nvidia advanced $4.64, or 2.4 percent, to $198.14 As technology companies climbed further. The technology index of the S&P 500 surged almost 37 percent last year as big names including Facebook, Apple and Microsoft reached all-time highs.

Drug and medical device companies led the health care sector higher. Hepatitis C and HIV drug maker Gilead Sciences gained $2.39, or 3.3 percent, to $74.03. Abbott Laboratories, which sells medications, infant formula and medical devices, picked up $1.63, or 2.9 percent, to $58.70 and Baxter International gained $2.45, or 3.8 percent, to $67.09.

Retailers also rose. Amazon added $19.64, or 1.7 percent, to $1,189.11. Target rose $2.59, or 4 percent, to $67.84 and Kohl’s added $1.95, or 3.6 percent, to $56.18. Early indications suggest shoppers had a busy holiday season and investors will look for confirmation of those reports in the weeks to come.

“We may have all made New Year’s Resolutions but they don’t change what we do from day to day,” said Kate Warne, an investment strategist for Edward Jones.

She said it looks like the global economy will keep growing and businesses and consumers around the world will continue to spend money because interest rates are low, and governments in areas that were hit hard by the Great Recession are more willing to spend.

Bond prices slid. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.46 percent from 2.41 percent. The yield on 2-year note rose to 1.92 percent from 1.89 percent.

The increase in bond yields sent high-dividend stocks like utilities, household goods makers and real estate companies lower. Higher bond yields make those stocks less appealing to investors seeking income.

On the last day of the year, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” surpassed “Beauty and the Beast” as the top grossing film in North America in 2017. Its gross will reach $1 billion in the next few days even before the movie opens in China. Both “The Last Jedi” and the live-action “Beauty and the Beast” were made by Disney, which rose $3.98, or 3.7 percent, to $111.49.

Weight Watchers International climbed after it struck a deal with producer and recording artist DJ Khaled, who will represent the brand to millions of follows on Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Weight Watchers got a big boost a few years ago from a deal with Oprah Winfrey that also included a substantial investment in the company. Its stock added $2.92, or 6.6 percent, to $47.20.

Bitcoin rose after the Wall Street Journal reported that the venture capital firm Founders Fund, co-founded by Peter Thiel, bought around $15 million in bitcoin in mid-2017. The report cited anonymous sources. The digital currency rose 11.9 percent to $15,010, according to Coindesk. Thiel did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell 5 cents to $60.37 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, fell 30 cents to $66.57 barrel in London. A rally late in the year sent crude oil to its highest price since June 2015.

Natural gas futures climbed 10 cents, or 3.5 percent, to $3.06 per 1,000 cubic feet. Natural gas is mostly used to heat homes and demand often rises in frigid weather.

Wholesale gasoline fell 3 cents to $1.76 a gallon. Heating oil declined 1 cent to $2.06 a gallon.

Gold rose $6.80 to $1,316.10 an ounce. Silver rose 6 cents to $17.21 an ounce. Copper lost 2 cents to $3.28 a pound.

The dollar fell to 112.27 yen from 112.64 yen. The euro rose to $1.2055 from $1.2012. The dollar slipped steadily in 2017. The improved global economy was responsible for much of that decline, however, and the weaker dollar makes U.S. exports less expensive in other markets.

Germany’s DAX fell 0.4 percent and France’s CAC 40 shed 0.5 percent. The British FTSE 100 retreated 0.5 percent.

Asian markets mostly did better. They were helped by surveys that showed strong manufacturing growth in China and India in December. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong gained 2 percent to and Seoul’s Kospi gained 0.5 percent. Markets in Japan were closed for a holiday.

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