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.
Egyptian government officials met with opposition leaders in an effort to end the nearly two weeks of political unrest that has ground normal operations to a halt in Cairo. By Monday, banks had reopened but the stock market remained closed. Japan's Nikkei added 0.5% and the Hong Kong Stock Exchange fell 1.5%. London's FTSE gained 0.8% and the DAX in Frankfurt rose by 0.9%. President Obama in a speech Monday to the Chamber of Commerce urged American businesses to begin investing and creating jobs even as the White House works to make regulations more business friendly and foster innovation. The Federal Reserve said consumers increased their borrowing by $6.1 billion in December to a seasonally adjusted rate of $2.41 trillion, a gain of 3%. Borrowing in the credit card category rose 3.5%, the first advance since 2008. Still, overall borrowing remains 6.6% below the July 2008 peak.
Shares of Loews ( L) surged 4.5% to $43.27 after it reported an adjusted net income of $1.17 versus estimates of 88 cents and said that it was scouting for acquisitions in the energy sector. Shares of Sysco ( SYY), the largest food distributor, fell 6.2% to $28.01 after it said profits fell 4% in the fourth quarter on account of rising food costs. Shares of Chesapeake Energy ( CHK) rose 4% to $31.27 on news that it
plans to sell all of its Fayetteville Shale gas assets, as well as its equity investments in Frac Tech Holdings and Chaparral Energy. Shares of AIG ( AIG),Loews and J.C. Penney ( JCP) were among the other prominent gainers on the S&P 500 while Nvidia ( NVDA), Tyson Foods ( TSN) and Weyerhauser ( WY) were notable losers. In commodity markets, the March crude oil contract slid $1.55 to settle at $87.48 a barrel. The most actively traded April gold contract shed 80 cents after rising higher earlier to settle at $1,348.20 an ounce. The dollar index traded flat against a basket of currencies. The benchmark 10-year Treasury fell 3/32, lifting the yield to 3.650%. . --Written by Melinda Peer and Shanthi Bharatwaj in New York.