STOCKS

Tech, health boost indexes to record highs

U.S. stocks continued to climb Wednesday, led by technology, health care and energy companies. Media companies also rose as stock indexes set record highs. The technology part of the Standard & Poor’s 500 index finally broke the record it set in March 2000, before the dot-com bubble burst. Energy companies rose with the price of oil as U.S. energy stockpiles continued to shrink. Cable network companies Scripps Networks and Discovery Communications jumped after the Wall Street Journal reported that they are in talks to combine. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 13.22 points, or 0.5 percent, to 2,473.83. Despite a sharp drop from IBM, the Dow Jones industrial average added 66.02 points, or 0.3 percent, to 21,640.75. The Nasdaq composite gained 40.74 points, or 0.6 percent, to 6,385.04. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks jumped 14.16 points, or 1 percent, to 1,441.77. All four indexes closed at record highs. Benchmark U.S. crude oil rose 72 cents, or 1.6 percent, to $47.12 a barrel.

MANUFACTURING

Shareholders approve tobacco merger

The consolidation of Big Tobacco companies looking as much to nicotine replacements and e-cigarettes for revenue as traditional smokes continued Wednesday with what will become the world’s largest publicly traded tobacco company. Shareholders approved British American Tobacco taking over Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Reynolds American Inc., the latest in a string of mergers that has seen the number of cigarette companies shrink this century. The deal gives London-based BAT greater access to the U.S. market, where cigarette prices and taxes are low relative to consumer incomes, but the customer base is shrinking.

RETAIL

Kwik Trip acquires rival PDQ store chain

The Kwik Trip convenience store chain is acquiring a competing company also based in Wisconsin. Kwik Trip, of La Crosse, has signed an agreement to acquire PDQ, a Middleton company that operates 34 convenience stores in southeastern Wisconsin. No details about the cost of the acquisition have been released. Kwik Trip owner Mark Zietlow said he anticipates adding more than 1,000 jobs with the PDQ acquisition and has plans to remodel the stores. The PDQ stores will keep their identity until mid-2018 when they will be revamped and renamed. The Kwik Trip chain has 570 stores in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa and employs more than 19,000 people.

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