U.S. stocks rose sharply on Thursday, sending the S&P 500 to the highest close this year and within shouting distance of the record close reached on Dec 29. Optimism stemmed from news of a cease-fire agreement between Russia and Ukraine, a pick-up in oil prices and merger activity news, with gains building throughout the session. The S&P 500 added 19.95 points, or 1%, to 2,088.48. The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 110.24 points, or 0.6%, to 17,972.38. The Nasdaq Composite added 56.43 points, or 1.2%, to 4,857.61, the highest level since 2,000.
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