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Wall Street climbs as tax reform enters last lap

By Rama Venkat Raman
A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange shortly after the opening bell in New York, U.S., December 5, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

By Rama Venkat Raman

(Reuters) - U.S. stocks climbed higher on Thursday, boosted by gains in technology and banking shares and aided by news that the Republicans' tax code overhaul should face final votes in Congress before the year-end.

A final bill could be formally unveiled on Friday, with decisive votes expected next week in both chambers.

On Wednesday, Republicans in the Senate and the House reached a deal on final tax legislation that would slash the corporate tax rate to 21 percent.

"We have a pretty positive background, investors are focused on the tax deal that they are closed to an agreement between the House and the Senate," said Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James in St. Petersburg, Florida.

"It will take some time to go through the details, what that means for specific companies but it's consistent with the general positive tone."

At 9:40 a.m. ET (1440 GMT), the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.29 percent to 24,655.57, on track to post six days of gains in a row.

The S&P 500 was up 3.14 points, or 0.12 percent, at 2,665.99 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 9.26 points, or 0.13 percent, at 6,885.06.

Walt Disney Co struck a deal to buy film, television and international businesses from Rupert Murdoch's Twenty-First Century Fox for $52.4 billion in stock. Disney's shares rose 1.77 percent and Fox shares were up marginally.

Shares of big banks recovered early in the day from an initial decline after the Federal Reserve raised rates by 25 basis points but kept its outlook for 2018 and 2019 unchanged.

Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, Wells Fargo and Bank of America rose between 0.45 percent and 0.65 percent, pushing up the S&P financial index 0.22 percent.

Amazon and Alphabet rose 0.55 percent and 0.9 percent respectively, providing the biggest boost to the S&P and the Nasdaq.

Telecom services stocks Verizon, AT&T and Sprint were down between 0.35 percent to 1.12 percent.

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission is set to announce on Thursday that it would rescind net neutrality rules championed by former President Barack Obama that barred the blocking or slowing of internet traffic.

Data showed that U.S. retail sales increased more than expected in November as the holiday shopping season got off to a brisk start, pointing to sustained strength in the economy.

Retail sales rose 0.8 percent in November, while economists polled by Reuters has forecast a 0.3 percent rise.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 1,295 to 1,244. On the Nasdaq, 1,265 issues rose and 1,100 fell.

(Reporting by Rama Venkat Raman in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur)