Earnings, manufacturing reports give stocks a boost

Sunday, February 21, 2010

U.S. stocks had their best week in more than three months as improving earnings and better-than-expected reports on manufacturing bolstered optimism that the economy is gaining momentum.

The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index climbed all four days of the trading week as manufacturing increased more than forecast. Technology companies gained for a third straight week as Hewlett-Packard, the largest personal-computer maker, boosted its profit forecast.

Stocks maintained gains even after the Federal Reserve boosted the rate it charges for direct loans to banks for the first time since 2006.

"Earnings continue to meet or beat expectations," said Don Wordell, a fund manager for RidgeWorth Capital Management, which oversees about $62 billion. "The majority of economic data coming out is more positive and creates an encouraging feedback loop back to the market."

The S&P rose for a second straight week, adding 3.1 percent to close at 1109.17, with all 10 industry groups climbing. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 3 percent, to 10,402.35, as Bank of America led gains by 29 of 30 index components.

The Philadelphia Fed's general economic index rose to 17.6 in February from 15.2, its sixth straight advance. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey was 17.

The number of Americans filing first-time claims for unemployment insurance unexpectedly increased in last week's report.

The Treasury will auction $26 billion of three-month bills and $28 billion of six-month bills Monday. They yielded 0.106 percent and 0.193 percent, respectively, in when-issued trading. The Treasury will sell one-month bills the next day.

-- Bloomberg News

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