NEW YORK —
The government reported separately that U.S. companies increased their orders of machinery and equipment last month, a sign that business investment is rising. Orders rose 1.7 percent in October, the best showing since a 2.3 percent rise in May.
Stocks have pared some of the losses that followed the U.S. elections Nov. 6. That decline came as investors fretted over a looming budget crisis in Washington, commonly referred to as the fiscal cliff.
The S&P declined as much as 5 percent in the weeks after voters returned a divided government to power, with President Barack Obama returning to the White House and Republicans retaining control of the House. The two parties must agree on measures to trim the U.S. budget deficit before the end of the year to avoid a series of sharp tax increases and spending cuts that will come into force Jan. 1. Economists have warned that the measures could push the economy back into a recession.
The S&P rose as high as 1,465 in September, the highest in almost five years, after the Federal Reserve said it would extend its so-called quantitative easing program and buy more bonds. The program is intended to lower borrowing costs and stimulate hiring.
Stocks initially advanced in Europe after Greece's partners in the euro currency and the International Monetary Fund agreed to release funds the country needs to avoid bankruptcy. They also agreed to introduce a series of measures designed to reduce the country's debts to a more manageable level within a decade.
The yield on the 10-year Treasury note was little changed at 1.66 percent.
Among other stocks making big moves:
— Las Vegas Sands Corp. rose $1.94 to $45.98 after the casino operator said it would pay a special dividend of $2.75, distributing about $2.26 billion to shareholders before the end of the year.
— Airgas Inc., a specialty supplier of medical and industrial gases, fell $2.53 to $87.94 after disclosing that its chairman sold 1.2 million shares of the company's stock in a privately negotiated block trade.