The major indexes swung between slight gains and losses in early
trading, but were clearly in the black after noon and didn't look
back. The S&P 500 ended less than 0.5 percent below its record close
set last month at 1,848.38.
U.S. factory activity accelerated at its fastest pace in nearly four
years in February, according to Markit's preliminary U.S.
Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index, a bullish economic
indicator following a string of weaker-than-expected reports.
New claims for unemployment insurance fell in the latest week,
boding well for the job market, but the Philadelphia Fed's gauge of
manufacturing activity unexpectedly contracted in February.
The stock market has selectively shrugged off tepid data, pinning
recent weakness on the impact of extremely cold weather and massive
snow rather than worsening fundamentals.
"The U.S. (Markit) PMI number was probably not as good as it seems.
There could be some noise there, but it certainly is a good number,"
said Paul Zemsky, head of asset allocation at ING Investment
Management in New York.
"Overall, I think the data is a little equity positive. I don't
think this is sufficient to take us past 1,850 (on the S&P 500). We
need a reasonably good jobs number for that. I think we still coil
here for a few sessions, but we'll break to new highs because the
economy is going to show the slowdown was weather-related."
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> rose 92.67 points or 0.58
percent, to end at 16,133.23. The S&P 500 <.SPX> gained 11.03 points
or 0.60 percent, to finish at 1,839.78. The Nasdaq Composite <.IXIC>
added 29.591 points or 0.7 percent, to close at 4,267.545.
Social networking giant Facebook <FB.O> said late Wednesday it would
buy mobile-messaging startup WhatsApp for $16 billion in cash and
stock, plus $3 billion worth of restricted stock units to WhatsApp's
founders. Facebook shares initially fell on the news, but closed up
2.3 percent at $69.63 after earlier hitting a record high of $70.11.
Tesla <TSLA.O> shares surged 8.4 percent to $209.97 after hitting an
intraday record of $215.21. The electric car maker reported
fourth-quarter results that topped expectations on Wednesday after
the closing bell and said deliveries of its luxury sedan would surge
more than 55 percent this year.
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The market disregarded rising political tensions and violence from
Caracas to Kiev, though concerns may increase next week as earnings
wind down and the data calendar thins further.
Emerging market growth was also in view after China's flash Markit/HSBC
Purchasing Managers' Index fell to a seven-month low in February.
"The market's strength is somewhat surprising, given how weak
overseas markets have been," said Nicholas Colas, chief market
strategist at the ConvergEx Group in New York.
"It is good to see investors buying on dips, but I've also been
hearing a lot more bearish chatter."
DirecTV <DTV.O> shares rose 2.9 percent to $75.08, dipping from a
record high of $75.50 hit earlier in the session, after the largest
U.S. satellite TV company reported fourth-quarter results above
analysts' estimates and authorized a $3.5 billion stock-buyback
On the downside, Wal-Mart Stores Inc <WMT.N> fell 1.8 percent to
$73.52 after the world's biggest retailer reported a drop in U.S.
same-store sales and gave an earnings outlook below expectations.
About 6.4 billion shares traded on U.S. exchanges, according to the
latest available data from BATS Global Markets, below the 7.05
billion average so far in February.
Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the New York Stock
Exchange by a ratio of slightly less than 2 to 1. On the Nasdaq,
about 12 stocks rose for every five that fell.
(Reporting by Rodrigo Campos; additional
reporting by Ryan Vlastelica; editing by Nick Zieminski and Jan
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