Stocks rise as traders sense a big deals year

Talk that there will be more corporate deal-making sent stocks higher, putting the Dow within reach of its record high. Office­ Depot and OfficeMax are discussing a merger, and big corporate deals for Heinz and Dell were unveiled in recent weeks. All it would take now is one strong day to push the average above 14,164, the record set in October 2007. The day’s gains were widely shared, if slight. Nine of 10 industry groups tracked by the S&P 500 inched higher, led by energy companies. Health insurers fell after the release of preliminary data that suggest rate cuts to Medicare Advantage plans for next year will be steeper than anticipated.