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Stocks near record high...Cement merger to move forward...Big businesses lobby to end Cuba embargo



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NEW YORK (AP) — NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are closing slightly higher, putting the U.S. market close to a record high. The S&P 500 rose six points to 2,114 -- three points short of the record high it closed at on April 24. The Dow rose 46 points to 18,070 and the Nasdaq rose 11 points to 5,016. Positive earnings reports and a government survey showing factory orders rose in March helped give the markets a boost. In energy trading, oil slipped slightly. Benchmark U.S. crude fell 22 cents to close at $58.93 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude fell a penny to close at $66.45 a barrel in London.

NEW YORK (AP) — The stock market has closed just short of a record thanks to some positive earnings reports. Cognizant Technology Solutions jumped 6 percent, the most in the S&P 500, after the consulting company reported earnings that beat analysts' forecasts. Tyson Foods, the maker of Jimmy Dean sausage products, was another company whose stock gained after posting strong earnings. Corporate earnings for the first quarter have surpassed analysts' expectations -- growing slightly rather than contracting as had been forecast. That's helping boost demand for stocks.

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. antitrust regulators say Holcim and Lafarge have agreed to sell assets including cement plants and transportation assets to complete their merger, which will make the world's largest cement company. The Federal Trade Commission says the combination of the two companies would have reduced competition for portland cement, a component of concrete, in many U.S. markets. It also would have reduced competition for a specialty type of cement called slag cement. With the regulation hurdle nearly cleared, the companies hope to combine in July. Together they'll have about $34 billion in annual revenue.

HAVANA (AP) — Big businesses are putting their muscle into new Washington lobbying efforts to end the U.S. embargo on Cuba as the two countries press ahead to re-establish diplomatic relations. The new bi-partisan lobbying group Engage Cuba is set to launch later this month with the backing of more than a dozen Fortune 500 firms ranging from hotel companies to agricultural businesses. A political action committee called New Cuba holds its first fundraiser tonight, which it hopes will raise more than $50,000.

UNDATED (AP) — A new study says toxic fluids used in drilling and hydraulic fracturing likely escaped an unlined borehole and migrated thousands of feet into residential drinking-water wells in Pennsylvania. At least three wells were contaminated with dangerous levels of methane and other substances in 2010. The incident was one of several involving Chesapeake Energy that prompted state regulators to levy a record $1 million fine against the driller. Penn State University researchers say they detected minute amounts of a chemical compound often found in drilling and fracking fluids.

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The Associated Press

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