Stocks Advanced as Data Outweighed Budget Cuts

Stocks advanced modestly on Friday, as strong economic data overshadowed growth concerns in China and Europe and let investors discount the impact of expected government spending cuts. Up 0.6% from the week-ago finish, the Dow industrials gained 35.17 points, or 0.25%, to 14,089.66. The S&P 500 index added 3.52 points, or 0.23%, to 1,518.20, leaving it up 0.2% on the week. The Nasdaq Composite advanced 9.55 points, or 0.30%, to 3,169.74, tallying a 0.3% weekly gain.

Consumer spending was tepid in January as higher taxes squeezed incomes, but vigor in the manufacturing sector last month suggested economic growth picked up early this quarter. Consumer spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of U.S. economic activity, increased 0.2 percent in January, the Commerce Department said. In a separate report, the Institute for Supply Management said its index of national factory activity rose to 54.2 in February on strong orders growth.

The U.S. government stumbled headlong on Friday toward wide-ranging spending cuts that threaten to hinder the economic recovery, after President Barack Obama and congressional leaders failed to find an alternative budget plan.

U.S. auto sales in February were on track to show a fourth straight month of strong sales as gains in the housing market tempered worries over the wave of federal spending cuts due to begin on Friday. The annual auto sales pace for February is set to come in around 15.3 million vehicles, according to Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas.

Apple Inc lost a major ruling in its ongoing patent battle with Samsung Electronics on Friday, as a federal judge threw out part of a jury’s $1.05 billion damages award against Samsung over a variety of phone products.






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