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US stocks finish mostly higher after a weak start

Investors also took a shine to mining companies as metals prices increased. Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. rose 43 cents, or 2.4 percent, to $18.41 and Newmont Mining Corp. rose 66 cents, or 2.7 percent, to $25.01.

Tech giants Google, Microsoft and Facebook also contributed to the day's gains. Together they make up about 12 percent of the Nasdaq composite. Google rose $7.31, or 0.6 percent, to $1,207.30; Microsoft added 25 cents, or 0.7 percent, to $38.27 and Facebook climbed 78 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $70.88.

Six of the 10 industry sectors in the S&P 500 index notched small declines, with industrials posting the biggest drop. Utilities rose the most as investors moved money into the relatively low-risk sector.

Among the index's big decliners were insurer Progressive, which shed 94 cents, or 3.8 percent, to $23.58.

Most of the publicly traded homebuilding companies were trading lower after Credit Suisse issued a broad downgrade on the sector. In addition, new data from the Mortgage Bankers Association showed home loan applications fell 2.1 percent from a week earlier. Meritage Homes posted the biggest drop among the decliners, shedding 85 cents, or 2 percent, to $44.21.

Herbalife fell $4.82, or 7.4 percent, to $60.57 after the nutrition and supplement maker disclosed that it is facing an inquiry from the Federal Trade Commission. The company made the announcement a day after hedge fund manager William Ackman renewed his attacks on the company. Ackman repeatedly has bet against the company and says he believes it operates as a pyramid scheme.

The state of China's economy will continue to be a focus.

"We've been seeing these periodic, occasional weak data points come out of China," said Randy Frederick, managing director of trading and derivatives at the Schwab Center for Financial Research. "And each time that happens when our markets are at ... record highs, they're going to be very sensitive to any sort of negative news and there'll be days of profit-taking."

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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