Dow Jones nears 12,000 with gain of 108.68 points

The Dow Jones closed within 20 points of 12,000 Monday, its highest point since June 2008.

Technology stocks rose after Intel Corp. increased its dividend and said it would buy back more of its stock. Intel gained 2 percent.

Materials companies rose after a National Association for Business Economics report showed that economists are more positive about economic growth and the job market than at any time since the start of the Great Recession in December 2007.

Vulcan Materials Co., Alcoa Inc. and Sealed Air Corp. each gained more than 3 percent. Alcoa, which jumped 4.1 percent, was the top-performing stock among the 30 that make up the Dow Jones industrial average.

The Dow gained 108.68 points, or 0.9 percent, to 11,980.52. The last time the average closed above 12,000 was June 19, 2008.

The broader Standard and Poor’s 500 index rose 7.49, or 0.6 percent, to 1,290.84. The Nasdaq composite gained 28.01, or 1 percent, to 2,717.55.


McDonald’s may hike prices this year after banner 2010

McDonald’s affordable food drew even more customers in its fourth quarter, but the world’s largest burger chain said it may raise prices this year as its own food tab rises.

Worries about rising costs gave some investors pause even as McDonald’s ended a banner year in which it outperformed its rivals. Low-priced items and an expanding menu, including the limited-time McRib and its McCafe coffee line, helped sales grow all year.

McDonald’s Corp., based in Oak Brook, Ill., reported that its net income rose 2 percent to $1.24 billion, or $1.16 per share, for the quarter. That’s up from $1.22 billion, or $1.11 per share, a year ago.

Revenue rose 4 percent to $6.21 billion.

The results met the expectations of analysts surveyed by FactSet, and McDonald’s shares gained 0.5 percent to $75.38 Monday.

However, the company said it expects food costs will rise 2 to 2.5 percent in the U.S. and 3.5 to 4.5 percent in Europe during the year.


J.C. Penney plans closings as more shoppers go online

J.C. Penney Co. plans to close some stores, outlets and call centers, finish closing its catalog business and add two opinionated shareholders, including activist William Ackman, to its board.

The retailer said Monday that the moves are meant to boost profitability and keep pace with customers’ increasing shift to online purchases.

Chairman and CEO Myron E. Ullman III admitted in a conference call that the retailer’s business started to shift heavily away from catalog to online about two years ago.

“We didn’t give up on the catalog. The customer did,” he said.

Other changes include closing six underperforming stores, two call centers, 19 outlet stores and a furniture outlet. J.C. Penney did not disclose how many jobs would be lost.

The chain runs more than 1,100 department stores in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

J.C. Penney shares jumped 7 percent to $32.52 Monday after the announcement.