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S&P 500 erases '14 losses; hits new record high

5:20 PM, Feb 24, 2014   |    comments
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. (Photo: Spencer Platt, Getty Images)
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(USA TODAY) After a rocky start to 2014, a rally Monday enabled the Standard & Poor's 500 stock index to finally wipe out all of its early-year losses and enter new record-high territory.

In afternoon trading, the S&P 500 was up 0.9% to 1,852, eclipsing its Jan. 15 record close of 1,848.38. If the benchmark stock index can close at a new high, it would mark an end to the "pullback" that knocked the index down 5.8%.

Stocks got a lift from better economic news out of Europe, where an index measuring the "business climate" in Germany topped expectations. Wall Street also cheered word of coming financial assistance to the embattled Ukraine, which is undergoing massive political change.

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 0.9% to 16,250 and the Nasdaq composite index gained 0.9% to 4,301.

FED PULLBACK: Economists differ on 'taper' timing

Stocks got off to a poor start this year, hurt by sub-par economic data blamed on wintry weather, turbulence in emerging markets and recent political turmoil in Ukraine. But since the market hit its low for the year on Feb. 3, investors have snapped up stocks on the belief that the ingredients for an acceleration in U.S. economic growth were still in place. Wall Street also downgraded the threat to global growth caused by troubles in some emerging markets.

"The weather excuse has been generally accepted in part because there was near universal agreement at the start of the year that the drivers of faster economic growth were in place," said David Kelly, chief global strategist at J.P. Morgan Funds.

But Kelly warns that economic data has to pick up when spring arrives if the stock rally is to continue.

"The numbers need to pick up over the next few weeks or investors will begin to recalibrate their views of the year ahead into a picture of lower readings on inflation, earnings, interest rates and stock prices."

On Tuesday, Wall Street will get fresh readings on home prices and consumer confidence. Thursday, investors will find out how robust sales of durable goods, such as washing machines and dishwashers, were in January. On Friday, the government will release a revised estimate for economic growth, or GDP, for the fourth quarter of 2013.

The stock market's recovery also coincided with new Federal Reserve chief Janet Yellen's first testimony before Congress on Feb. 11. Wall Street was reassured by Yellen's comments, which suggested the Fed would continue to support markets as it did under former chairman Ben Bernanke. Yellen testifies again on Capitol Hill on Thursday.

Monday's gains leave only the Dow in the red for the year. Heading into today's session the blue-chip stock gauge was down 3% in 2014.

MEN'S WEARHOUSE: Ups bid for Jos. A Bank

Investors were also digesting news Monday of yet another new wrinkle in the attempted retail takeover saga between Jos. A. Bank and Men's Wearhouse.

Men's Wearhouse stepped up its pursuit of Jos. A. Bank, boosting the takeover offer for its rival by 10% to about $1.78 billion. Stock in both companies were up more than 8%.

WAFFLE TACO? Taco Bell offers breakfast

SPEAKING OF BREAKFAST . . . : McDonald's eyes longer hours

TESLA STOCK: 1,200 times its earnings now

Benchmark U.S. oil for April delivery up 29 cents at $102.50 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 55 cents on Friday to close at $102.20.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.74% from 2.73% Friday.

In Asia, China's Shanghai composite index slid 1.8% to 2,076.69 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng index shed 0.8% to 22,388.56. Japan's Nikkei 225 stock average was down 0.2% at 14,837.68.

European stocks moved higher as Wall Street rallied. London's FTSE index gained 0.4% to 6,865.86 and Germany's DAX index rose 0.5% to 9,708.94.

Wall Street stocks fell Friday as investors assessed the latest round of company earnings.The S&P 500 fell 3.53 points, or 0.2%, to 1,836.25. The Dow dropped 29.93 points, or 0.2% percent, to 16,103.30. The tech-laden Nasdaq composite closed down 4.13 points, 0.1%, to 4,263.41.

HSBC: Profits up

FRIDAY: Stocks close down at lows of session

By Adam Shell, USA TODAY; Contributing: Associated Press

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