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Key US Stock Indexes Hit Milestones; China Advances

Stock prices rose to record highs Monday in the United States and made strong gains in China.

In New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which tallies the fortunes of 30 well-known American companies, topped 16,000 for the first time. The index includes such international brands as the American Express company, oil giant Exxon Mobil and soft drink maker Coca-Cola.

A broader stock index, the Standard & Poor's 500, topped 1,800 for the first time. The third major U.S. exchange, the Nasdaq, which monitors the performance of many technology companies, has been advancing as well and is flirting with the 4,000 level. But that is still well short of its record of more than 5,100 set in 2000 before many tech companies collapsed.

Earlier, Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index advanced a strong 2.7 percent.

Analysts say investors were encouraged by China's pledge to expand economic freedoms, which they apparently think will move the world's second-largest economy toward more sustainable growth.

The state-run Xinhua news service says the reforms will bring changes for farmers and state-owned enterprises and make it easier for private companies to compete.

The Dow's daily closing index number has set 38 new records this year. Analysts say the market surge partly has been fueled by a steadily advancing U.S. economy, the world's largest. That has led to increased corporate profits, even as the country's unemployment rate remained elevated at 7.3 percent in October.

In addition, traders have invested heavily in corporate stocks as the U.S. central bank, the Federal Reserve, has continued to pump money into the American economy through its purchase of securities. At her confirmation hearing last week, the prospective new chair of the Fed, Janet Yellen, gave no indication when the central bank might begin to curtail its direct economic support, which has given investors new reason for more stock buying.

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