Stocks Opened Higher on Budget Talks

U.S. stocks opened slightly higher on Monday, encouraged by signs of progress in budget talks and a prediction of steady economic growth next year. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lately rose 56.82 points, or 0.43%, to 13,191.83 and the S&P 500 index gained 7.37 points, or 0.52%, to 1,420.95. The Nasdaq Composite climbed 12.91 points, or 0.43%, to 2,984.24.

The first real movement in the “fiscal cliff” talks began on Sunday, with Republican House Speaker John Boehner edging slightly closer to President Barack Obama’s key demands as they try to avert the steep tax hikes and spending cuts set to take effect unless Congress intervenes by December 31.

The Empire State manufacturing index remained in negative territory for the fifth month in a row, the New York Federal Reserve Bank said Monday.  The index fell to negative 8.1 in December from negative 5.2 in November. Readings below zero indicate a decline in activity.

Apple said Monday that it sold more than 2 million iPhone 5s in China in their first three days of availability, setting a record for that market.

Sprint Nextel Corp. (NYSE:S) increased its offer to acquire the roughly 50% stake in Clearwire Corp. (NASDAQ:CLWR) it doesn’t already own, agreeing to pay $2.97 a share.

Caribou Coffee Company Inc said it will be acquired by an affiliate of the Joh. A. Benckiser Group (JAB) for about $340 million in cash.

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