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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Arkansas Business) -- Improvement in the U.S. manufacturing sector helped push the stock market to a record high yesterday.

The S&P closing above its most recent record high of 1878, set on March 7. In all, stock gains were broad, with eight out of the ten sectors in the S&P 500 rising.

All this, as the Institute for Supply Management's manufacturing index rose to 53.7 in March, up from 53.2 in February, as the nation's factories continued to step up the pace following the severe winter weather earlier this year.

And in another report, the Commerce Department said construction spending rose by 0.1 percent in February, after falling 0.2 percent in January.

Both reports taken as the latest signs that the U.S. economy is beginning to thaw following a tough winter.

Taco Bell franchise added to Fort Smith company's operations

One of the larger restaurant franchisee businesses in the country added to its operations.

K-MAC Holdings Corp. of Fort Smith said Tuesday it purchased 21 Taco Bell restaurants from Ricksim Inc., a Taco Bell restaurant franchisee in the Oklahoma City market.

K-MAC is owned by Brentwood Associates, a private equity investment firm in Los Angeles.

Before Tuesday's acquisition, K-MAC operated 275 YUM! brand restaurants in the Taco Bell and KFC systems, and six Golden Corral restaurants.

Founded in 1964, K-MAC has restaurants in Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi, Oklahoma and five other states.

Dillard's Inc. to handle store credit cards

Dillard's Inc. of Little Rock announced that Wells Fargo & Co. will handle the department store chain's credit cards.

Wells Fargo of San Francisco will fund, issue and service Dillard's-branded private label and co-brand credit cards.

The two companies signed a 10-year agreement that will begin in the fourth quarter after Dillard's current credit card agreement with GE Consumer Finance ends.

Dillard's received about $113 million in revenue from the GE agreement in its most recent fiscal year.

Financial terms of the Wells Fargo agreement weren't disclosed.

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