US Stocks Rise As Economy Shows Signs Of Growth


Fresh signs Friday that the United States economy continues its slow, steady recovery and easing worries about Greece’s debt problems helped push stocks higher.

Stocks got a boost after reassuring statements from Greece’s finance minister and the head of the European Central Bank. Major European indexes are higher, while the dollar fell against the euro.

Major indexes pulled back briefly after Fitch Ratings cut its view on Greece’s debt, before quickly recovering. Stocks have been fluctuating in recent days on ongoing concerns about the European nation’s ability to repay debt.

Rising commodity prices also helped energy and material stocks, pushing indexes higher. Commodities mostly climbed on hopes demand will jump as the economy continues to improve. Chevron Corp. and ExxonMobil Corp. both rose.

The Dow Jones industrial average is again creeping toward the 11,000 level. It came within 13 points earlier in trading. The Dow is up 56 points.

The Dow broke a two-day losing streak Thursday after retailers reported strong March sales. J.C. Penney shares jumped after an analyst upgraded his view on the stock. The retailer raised its first-quarter outlook Thursday after reporting better-than-expected sales.

A report on wholesale inventories provided the latest positive sign on the economy. The Commerce Department said inventories rose 0.6 percent in February, better than the 0.4 percent forecast by economists polled by Thomson Reuters.

Sales at wholesalers also rose faster than expected, gaining 0.8 percent. It was the 11th straight month of rising sales. Economists had forecast a 0.5 percent rise.

Consistently rising inventories and sales at the wholesale level mean that manufacturers are getting steady orders that should allow them to hire more workers. It also means retailers are ramping up orders as consumers return to stores after curtailing their spending during the recession.

In early afternoon trading, the Dow rose 56.23, or 0.5 percent, to 10,983.30. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 5.75, or 0.5 percent, to 1,192.18, while the Nasdaq composite index rose 9.36, or 0.4 percent, to 2,446.17.

The Dow has flirted with the 11,000 level throughout the week, coming within about a dozen points of the mark on both Monday and Tuesday. If the Dow hits 11,000, it would be the first time it reached that level in 18 months.

However, it hasn’t been able to hit that level as stocks have remained relatively flat throughout the week.

“Considering how fare we’ve come, a sideways week was appropriate,” said Maury Fertig, chief investment officer at Relative Value Partners in Northbrook, Ill.

If  Dow rises Friday, it would give the index its sixth straight weekly gain for the first time since a stretch in March and April last year just after market bottomed. The Dow started the day at exactly the same level it closed last week. Analysts have said that the markets’ steady climb in recent weeks made it due for a pause.