NEW YORK - An encouraging trade report and signs that a tax-cut package would pass the Senate sent stocks to their highest levels in two years Friday. Bond prices fell for another day as investors expected the tax deal to lead to economic growth and higher budget deficits.
The Commerce Department reported that the U.S. trade deficit fell to its lowest level in nine months in October. Growing demand for U.S. goods overseas pushed exports to their highest level in more than two years.
Separately, the Treasury Department said the federal government's budget shortfall hit $150.4 billion in November. Treasury prices dropped after the report was released, pushing their yields higher. The yield for the 10-year note rose to 3.33 percent, up from 3.21 percent late Thursday.
The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 7.40, or 0.6 percent, to 1,240.40. It was the third straight day that the S&P index closed at a new high for the year. The index has gained 11.2 percent this year and is now trading at the same level it did the week before Lehman Bros. filed for bankruptcy in September 2008.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 40.26, or 0.4 percent, to 11,410.32. General Electric Co. led the 30 stocks that make up the index with a 3.4 percent jump to $17.72. GE said it planned to raise its dividend by 17 percent.