S&P Briefly Rallies to All-Time High

The Standard & Poor's 500 Index, one of the three major benchmarks for U.S. stocks, briefly surpassed its all-time closing high Monday before falling back. It had been rising steadily, reflecting a flurry of takeover deals.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Our business news starts with stocks finishing high despite rising oil prices.

A flurry of new mergers sent stock prices into record territory again yesterday. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index, one of the three major benchmarks for U.S. stocks, briefly surpassed its all-time closing high.

NPR's Jim Zarroli reports.

JIM ZARROLI: The S&P 500 doesn't get as much attention as the Dow, but most people who follow the stock market see it as a better barometer of market performance. The S&P hit an all-time record of 15.27 back in March 2000, before a recession and corporate scandals took their toll on the markets. By October 2002, the S&P had lost nearly half its value. Since then it's been slowly climbing back. And yesterday it surpassed its closing high. It fell back again by the end of the day, but still end of the day higher.

What sent stocks northward was in part a lot of deal making. General Electric said it would sell its plastics division to a Saudi company for more than $11 billion. And the telecommunications company Alltel said it was being bought for $24 billion.

Meanwhile, the other major stock index, the NASDAQ Composite Index, finished the day at 25.78. Unlike the others, it's still well below its all-time high of 5,048, which it reached on March 24, 2000 at the height of the dotcom boom.

Jim Zarroli, NPR News, New York.

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