US stocks turn positive as leading indicators up in February

U.S. stocks turned higher on Thursday after the Conference Board’s index of U.S. leading indicators climbed 0.5 percent last month, signaling the nation’s economy would strengthen after first-quarter weakness.

Data released Thursday had the count of Americans filing for jobless benefits rising by 5,000 to 320,000 last week, less than the 325,000 estimated by economists polled by Reuters. The four-week moving average for new claims, viewed as a better gauge overall of labor conditions, dropped 3,500 to 327,000, the lowest since November.

Other reports had existing-home sales for February falling to 4.60 million compared to a 4.66 million estimate. Leading indicators rose 0.5 percent in February, versus estimates of a 0.4 percent rise, and the Philadelphia Fed’s manufacturing gauge climbed to 9.0 in March from negative 6.3 the previous month.

Name Price Change %Change
DJIA Dow Jones Industrial Average 16264.81
42.64 0.26%
S&P 500 S&P 500 Index 1864.93
4.16 0.22%
NASDAQ Nasdaq Composite Index 4314.99
7.39 0.17%

Clearing a 61-point drop, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose as much as 71 points, and was lately up 51.39 points, or 0.3 percent, to 16,273.56, with JPMorgan Chase leading gains that extended to 21 of the blue-chip index’s 30 components.

The S&P 500 added 5.14 points, or 0.3 percent, to 1,865.91, with telecommunications and financials leading sector gains and utilities and health care the biggest laggards.

The Nasdaq gained 12.15 points, or 0.3 percent, to 4,319.76.

Lennar wavered after the homebuilder reported a 36 percent rise in quarterly profit.

The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), a measure of investor uncertainty, declined 2.8 percent to 14.70.

Decliners remained ahead of advancers on the New York Stock Exchange, where 145 million shares traded by 10:30 a.m. Eastern. Composite volume hit 732 million.

The dollar gained against the currencies of major U.S. trading partners, while dollar-denominated commodities including oil and gold fell.

The 10-year Treasury yield used in figuring mortgage rates and other consumer loans rose 1 basis point to 2.784 percent.

Wall Street declined on Wednesday, halting a two-day climb that had the S&P 500 not far from its record close, after Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said that the “considerable period” between the end of the central bank’s quantitative-easing program and its first rate hike could be six months.

—By CNBC’s Kate Gibson

Coming Up This Week:

THURSDAY: Earnings from Nike

FRIDAY: Quadruple Witching, 21st Century Fox shareholder mtg; Earnings from Darden Restaurants, Tiffany

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