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Stocks Finish Strong on Deals News

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Stocks finished higher Monday, propelled by a flurry of deals news, strong earnings and signs of economic activity returning to normal in Egypt.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 69 points, or 0.6%, at 12,161 after rising as high as 12,189 earlier in the session. The S&P 500 was higher by 8 points, or 0.6%, at 1,319, and the Nasdaq was ahead by 15 points, or 0.5% at 2,784.

Capital goods, conglomerates and financial sectors led the rally, while energy stocks underperformed.

Bank of America (BAC), American Express (AXP), and JPMorgan (JPM) topped the Dow while Pfizer (PFE), Kraft Foods (KFT), and Verizon (VZ) were among the biggest laggards.

About 1.7 billion shares traded on the Nasdaq, while 877 million shares changed hands on the New York Stock Exchange. Market breadth was positive with 2 out of every three stocks traded on the NYSE closing higher.

Monday's session brought a spate of deals news, including Danaher's (DHR)agreement to buy biomedical testing equipment maker Beckman Coulter (BEC) for $83.50 a share in cash, or roughly $6.8 billion, including assumed debt. Shares of Danaher spiked 2.2% to close at $49.03 and Beckman Coulter's stock gained 9.9% to $82.65.

AOL (AOL) agreed to acquire the online news site The Huffington Post for $315 million. As part of the deal, the site's co-founder and Editor-in-Chief Arianna Huffington will be named president and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post Media Group, which will integrate all Huffington Post and AOL content. AOL's stock shed 3.4% at $21.19.

Offshore contract drilling company Ensco (ESV) agreed to acquire Pride International (PDE) for $41.60 a share in cash and stock. Pride International's stock jumped 15.7% to $39.80 while Ensco's stock shed 4.2% to $52.13.

Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway (BRK-B) agreed to buy the remaining 19.9% stake of Wesco Financial (WSC) for $547.6 million. Shares of Wesco gained 1.8% to $387.50.

Peter Tuz, Chase Investment Counsel president, said Monday's gains were merger driven.

"You're seeing companies spend their money and I think that's improving sentiment. Plus, the fact that we didn't see any deterioration in the Egypt situation over the last couple of nights is probably helping a little bit, too," Tuz said.

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