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22.06.2015 20:20 U.S. stocks closed

U.S. stocks advanced, with the Standard & Poor's 500 Index earlier rising near a record, as Cigna Corp. and Williams Cos. jumped on merger news amid optimism over Greece debt talks.

European policy makers expressed confidence that a deal with Greece was within reach after Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras's government submitted a last-minute set of proposals. Euro-area leaders are meeting in Brussels, where Tsipras has a chance to put his case to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande.

The S&P 500 Friday posted its best weekly gain since April, after signals from the Federal Reserve that the central bank won't be raising rates quickly as officials hold out for more decisive evidence of an economic rebound.

The equity benchmark fell as much as 2.4 percent from its May record as the threat of tighter monetary policy spooked investors amid data showing the U.S. economy contracted in the first quarter. Three rounds of Fed bond purchases and borrowing costs near zero have propelled the gauge up by more than 200 percent during the six-year bull market.

Data today showed previously owned homes in May sold at the fastest pace since November 2009, adding to evidence the economy will be strong enough to withstand the first rate increase since 2006. Closings on existing properties rose 5.1 percent to a 5.35 million annualized rate, above the 5.26 million median forecast in a Bloomberg survey.

Investors and the Fed will also assess reports this week on durable goods orders, first-quarter economic growth, personal income and spending and consumer sentiment.

"The consumer is two thirds of the economy, so they need housing to do well," said Patrick Spencer, equities vice-chairman at Robert W. Baird & Co. in London. "The housing number will continue to be reasonably buoyant and that will underpin the market."



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