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US stocks edge higher, cable companies slump

By STEVE ROTHWELL

AP Markets Writer NEW YORK (AP) - US stocks edged higher on Monday, led by gains in health care stocks, keeping the market at record levels. Home builders got a lift after Toll Brothers said that its revenue rose 29 percent in the most recent quarter.

Cable companies slumped after President Barack Obama said regulators should reclassify the Internet as a public utility.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose four points, or 0.2 percent, as of 12:06 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 31 points, or 0.2 percent, to 17,605. The Nasdaq composite climbed 13 points, or 0.3 percent, to 4,645.

NET NEUTRALITY: Cable companies dropped after Obama said Internet providers shouldn't be allowed to cut deals with online services like Netflix, Amazon or YouTube to prioritize their content. In a statement released by the White House Monday, the president called for an "explicit ban" on such deals. Time Warner Cable fell $5.61, or 3.8 percent, to $137.99. Comcast fell $2.11, or 3.8 percent, to $53.04.

MILKING IT: Dean Foods, a milk distributor, jumped $2.02, or 14 percent, to $16.44, after the company reported a third-quarter loss that wasn't as bad as investors had anticipated.

RETAIL EARNINGS: This week investors will be taking stock of retail company earnings to gain insight into how much American shoppers are spending ahead of the holiday season. Macy's, Nordstrom and Wal-Mart will report their earnings. The government will also release its retail sales data for October on Friday.

HOLDING AT THE HIGHS: Stocks are trading at record levels, having rebounded following a sharp slump at the beginning of October. Despite worries about flagging growth overseas, investors are focusing on a strengthening U.S. economy and improving company earnings.

HOME BUILDERS: Toll Brothers reported a 29 percent jump in revenue in for the quarter ending Oct. 29th. The company's stock climbed $1.20, or 3.7 percent, to $33.42. Other home builders also rose. PulteGroup climbed 65 cents, or 3.2 percent, to $20.62

THE QUOTE: Stocks, though no longer cheap, are still attractive because of lower returns on options elsewhere, said Bill Stone, the chief investment strategist for PNC Wealth Management. Bond yields have fallen this year, and rates on cash deposits remain close to zero.

"My base line is that stocks will continue to chug along," said Stone.

RUBLE FLOATS: The biggest development in Europe was news that Russia's central bank has decided to allow the ruble to trade freely. The move had been planned for next year. The ruble has come under sustained pressure in the face of Western sanctions over Ukraine and plummeting oil prices. The ruble has lost nearly half its value against the dollar this year. The move appears to have eased the pressure on the ruble, which strengthened sharply on the news, trading up 3.6 percent at around 45 rubles a dollar. Russia's benchmark RTS stock index rose 3.8 percent.

EUROPEAN STOCKS: European stock markets edged higher. Britain's FTSE 100 rose 0.3 percent and Germany's DAX rose 0.1 percent. The CAC-40 in France also gained, climbing 0.3 percent.

ENERGY: Oil prices fell back after starting the day higher. Benchmark U.S. crude fell $1.18 to $77.45 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude fell 89 cents to $82.50 a barrel.

Oil fell amid speculation that member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC, are in no rush to cut production to shore up prices following a steep decline this year. Bloomberg reported that Kuwait's oil minister said he doesn't expect OPEC to agree a cut in production at the group's next meeting in Vienna on Nov. 27.

BONDS AND CURRENCIES: Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury edged up to 2.33 percent from 2.30 percent.

The dollar edged higher against the Japanese yen, climbing 0.2 percent to 114.78. Against the euro the U.S. currency was little changed at $1.2428.

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