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US stocks head higher; Nasdaq touches 5,000 points

By BY MATTHEW CRAFT
AP Business Writer

NEW YORK (AP) - The U.S. stock market headed higher on Monday as deals and economic news gave stocks a lift. The Nasdaq briefly touched 5,000, the first time the tech-heavy index has hit that mark in nearly 15 years.

KEEPING SCORE: As of 12:05 p.m., the Standard & Poor's 500 index rose eight points, or 0.4 percent, to 2,112. Consumer-discretionary stocks led six of the 10 industries in the index to gains.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 110 points, or 0.6 percent, to 18,243, while the Nasdaq composite gained 34 points, or 0.7 percent, to 4,997.

SPENDING: The government reported Monday that consumer spending dipped slightly in January, but there was better news elsewhere in the report. Overall income edged up and consumer spending actually rose when adjusted for inflation, reflecting a slide in gas prices during the month. That could turn out to be a good sign for economic growth, as people have more money left over after filling up their gas tanks.

THE VIEW: "Today it's about the consumer," said David Joy, chief market strategist at Ameriprise Financial. "That's the story of the day: Consumers appear to be feeling a little bit better."

CHIPPY: NXP Semiconductors said Sunday that it's planning to acquire Freescale Semiconductor in an $11.8 billion deal. The merger would create the largest supplier of microchips for cars. Boards of both companies have already approved the deal, but regulators still need to sign off on it. NXP's stock jumped $11.52, or 14 percent, to $96.40. Freescale soared $3.34, or 10 percent, to $39.45.

NO BID: Sotheby's stock sank after the auction house posted a big drop in quarterly earnings. Higher expenses weighed on the company's profits, which came in below analysts' estimates. Sotheby sank $2.01, or 5 percent, to $41.94.

SOLID MONTH: Last week, the stock market closed out its best monthly gain in more than three years. The S&P 500 climbed 5.5 percent in February, its strongest gain since October 2011. Consumer-discretionary companies and technology firms had the strongest gains.

EUROPE: Germany's DAX closed with a gain of 0.1 percent, and France's CAC 40 fell 0.7 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 shed 0.1 percent.

CHINA RATE CUT: The People's Bank of China cut interest rates for the second time in three months on Saturday, trimming the rate for one-year commercial loans to 5.35 percent. It's the latest measure aimed at propping up growth in the world's second-largest economy. The government has recently cut business taxes and boosted pay for government workers.

ASIA'S DAY: Japan's Nikkei 225 gained 0.2 percent, and South Korea's Kospi added 0.6 percent. In China, Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index rose 0.3 percent, while the Shanghai Composite Index advanced 0.8 percent.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude oil rose 78 cents to $50.54 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 119.72 yen from 119.63 late Friday. The euro gained to $1.1229 from $1.1199.

BONDS: Bond prices fell, pushing yields up. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.07 percent from an even 2 percent late Friday.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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