Stocks rise as manufacturing expands
Manufacturing across the U.S. expanded at the fastest pace in almost four years in February, according to a private survey by Markit, even though a separate survey by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia said factories in its region were having a rough month.
In another report, the Conference Board said that its index of leading indicators posted a moderate gain in January, suggesting that the economy will continue to expand in the first half of the year.
The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 11.03 points, or 0.60 percent, to 1,839.78. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 92.67 points, or 0.58 percent, to 16,133.23. The Dow fell 89 points Wednesday after minutes from the Fed's latest meeting showed that a few policymakers raised the possibility that an increase in interest rates should come "relatively soon."
The stock market is now close to erasing all of its losses after a volatile start to the year. Concerns about slowing growth in China and other emerging markets, as well as worries about the health of the U.S. economy, had pushed the S&P 500 down almost six percent for the year by the start of February.
Among individual stocks, Safeway rose after the grocer said it was in talks to put itself up for sale. The grocer's stock climbed 71 cents, or 2.1 percent, to $35.32 after the company said late Wednesday that discussions are ongoing but that it hasn't yet reached an agreement on a transaction.
Tesla Motors was also another winner after posting strong earnings and forecasting a sharp rise in sales this year. Tesla's stock jumped $16.33, or 8.4 percent, to $209.97.
Among the day's losers were Wal-Mart and oil and gas company Denbury.
Wal Mart's stock fell $1.33, or 1.8 percent, to $73.52 after it offered a weak profit outlook, signaling that it expects economic pressures to keep weighing on its low-income shoppers around the world. The world's largest retailer also said Thursday that its fourth-quarter profit, which covers the crucial holiday season, dropped 21 percent.
Energy company Denbury Resources fell 24 cents, or 1.5 percent, to $15.95 after it posted earnings that fell short of the expectations of Wall Street analysts. The company also said that its 2014 production would likely be at the lower end of its expectations.