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S&P, Dow Jones reach best levels since late 2007

NEW YORK--The S&P 500 and the Dow hit their highest levels since late 2007 on Friday, helped by news that Republicans might agree to raise the debt ceiling, but poor earnings from Intel pulled the Nasdaq lower.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished up 53.68 points (0.39 percent) to 13,649.70, its highest close since Dec. 10, 2007.

The broad-based S&P 500 added 5.04 (0.34 percent) at 1,485.98, its highest since Dec. 26, 2007.

But the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite ended down 1.29 points (0.04 percent) at 3,134.71.

Congressional Republicans moved to avert another crisis over the debt ceiling by planning a vote to extend it for three months while political leaders sort out the budget and a long term plan for government spending cuts.

That helped boost stocks broadly, along with some encouraging fourth quarter earnings reports and forecasts.

Shares of industrial giant GE closed up 3.5 percent after it beat earnings per share forecasts by one cent, coming in at 44 cents. Chief executive Jeffrey Immelt painted an encouraging picture for 2013, including in its China business, and said it had ended the year with a larger order book than expected.

Morgan Stanley jumped 7.9 percent on its earnings, and oilfield services giant Schlumberger powered up 4.3 percent on their strong quarter.

AT&T gained 0.7 percent following its after-trade announcement Thursday that it would take a US$10 billion charge on its quarterly earnings to account for a sharp cut in its forecast earnings at its pension fund, due to lower interest rates.

Boeing, facing more trouble over its 787 Dreamliner aircraft, fell back 0.3 percent following Thursday's 1.2-percent rebound.

On the Nasdaq, chipmaker Intel sank 6.3 percent after a poor fourth quarter, with a 31 percent drop in profits and a lowered forecast for this year, as PC sales remain weak.

Intel's report helped pull smaller rival AMD down by 10.2 percent.

But volatile Blackberry maker Research in Motion surged 6.2 percent after getting an upgrade to “buy” from broker Jeffries, setting a price target of US$19.50. RIM's shares ended at US$15.84.

Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury fell to 1.84 percent from 1.88 percent late Thursday. The 30-year slipped to 3.03 percent from 3.07 percent. Bond prices and yields move inversely.

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