US stock benchmarks close higher as fiscal cliff talks make progress

<p>The major US benchmarks finished Monday higher as policymaker talks move in the right direction.</p>

The major US stock indices closed higher last night (December 17th) as the president's talks on how to avoid the full force of the looming fiscal cliff made progress.

Barack Obama has been in crucial negotiations with the opposing Republican Party on the matter of the imminent basket of tax hikes and government spending cuts due to hit the world's largest economy simultaneously on New Year's Eve since he was re-elected in November.

Yesterday, investor hopes were buoyed after House Republican leaders said a new proposal from the White House to avoid the fiscal cliff was "a small step in the right direction".

However, policymakers have indicated it is unlikely a deal will be reached before Christmas, while members of the Grand Old Party added that last night's talks left "substantive issues" unresolved.

At close of play on Wall Street yesterday evening, the Dow Jones had appreciated by 0.7 per cent to an index value of 13235.3 points, while the Nasdaq  rose by 1.3 per cent to 3010.6 points.

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