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The close: S&P 500 scores another gain amid 'fiscal cliff' optimism Add to ...

North American stocks rose on Tuesday, driving the benchmark S&P 500 to a two-month high amid ongoing optimism that Washington is moving toward an agreement on a budget.

The S&P 500 closed at 1446.79, up 16.43 points or 1.2 per cent. The blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average closed at 13,350.96, up 115.57 points or 0.9 per cent. In Canada, the S&P/TSX composite index closed at 12,334.34, up 52.99 points or 0.4 per cent.

The gains follow signs of progress in the United States, where politicians have been negotiating on a budget that will prevent automatic tax increases and spending cuts in the new year.

The White House has raised its position on where tax increases should kick in, to household incomes of more than $400,000 (U.S.), up from a $250,000 threshold earlier. Republicans have offered tax increases on those making more than $1-million.

While that’s a big gap, it nonetheless has put tax increases on the table, with some observers expecting a compromise agreement on a $500,000 income threshold.

In Europe, Standard & Poor’s raised Greece’s sovereign credit rating to B-minus with a stable outlook, which sounds a lot better than the previous credit rating of selective default.

“The upgrade reflects our view of the strong determination of European Economic and Monetary Union (euro zone) member states to preserve Greek membership in the euro zone,” S&P said in a statement.

Apple Inc. rose 2.9 per cent after Samsung Electronics Ltd. eased back in the patent dispute between the two companies, saying it would drop requests for legal injunctions in five European countries. Apple shares came close to $500 in early trading on Monday, and have since rebounded more than 6 per cent.

Among key commodities, crude oil rose to $87.93 a barrel, up 73 cents. Gold fell to $1,670.70 an ounce, down $27.50. Among Canadian commodity producers, Suncor Energy Inc. fell 1.5 per cent and Barrick Gold Corp. fell 1.5 per cent.

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