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Stocks Gain as Investors Evaluate Economic Data

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Major U.S. markets closed higher Thursday as investors accounted for bad weather in a worse-than-expected jobless claims number and downwardly revised retail sales data.

  • The S&P 500 reversed early losses to close up 0.58% to 1,829.83, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.4% to 16,027.59. The Nasdaq gained 0.94% to 4,240.67.
  • Making the headlines Thursday was Comcast's (CMCSA) $45 billion agreement to buy Time Warner Cable (TWC). Comcast confirmed Thursday it reached a deal to buy Time Warner Cable for about $45.2 billion in stock, or $158.82 a share, combining the nation's top two cable TV companies. Time Warner Cable was a top gainer in the S&P, up 7% to $144.80.
  • Cisco Systems (CSCO) and Whole Foods Market (WFM) were top laggards in the Dow and S&P 500, respectively, after they issued earnings reports on Wednesday. Cisco shed 2.5% while WholeFoods was 7.2% lower.
  • Goodyear (GT) was the top gainer in the S&P 500 after the tire maker reported better-than-expected fourth quarter 2013 earnings of 74 cents a share. Analysts were anticipating 63 cents a share. Shares surged 11.5%.
  • Retail sales fell by 0.4% in January following a downwardly revised 0.1% dip in December, according to the Census Bureau. Initial jobless claims rose by 8,000 to a more-than-expected 339,000 in the week of Feb. 8.
  • "The retail sales data is of more concern (than the jobless result) as the trend indicates a slight softening of the economy during the end of the year," ING's U.S. Investment Management chief market strategist, Douglas Cote, told clients. "This downturn in retail spending will potentially manifest itself in the first quarter corporate earnings."
  • U.S. business inventories rose in line with expectations in December, the U.S. Census Bureau said Thursday. Wholesale inventories rose by a seasonally adjusted 0.5%, matching forecasts, after a 0.4% lift in November.
  • Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen's delivery of the second part of the semi-annual monetary policy testimony before the Senate Banking Committee in Washington was postponed because of bad weather.
  • In overseas markets, Germany's DAX finished up 0.6% while the FTSE fell 0.23%. Japan's Nikkei closed 1.79% lower while the Hang Seng shed 0.54%.
  • Sam Stovall, the New York-based chief equity strategist at S&P Capital IQ, indicated that bigger-picture data continues to point to bullish market conditions. He wrote in a client note that after declining 5.8% in the three weeks starting Jan. 15, the S&P 500 has retraced nearly 75% of the pullback in four days vs. the normal average of 1.7 months to recover entirely from all pullbacks since WWII. "The S&P 500 continues to confound and frustrate those under-allocated to stocks," said Stovall. "While the speed of recovery from pullbacks offers scant clues as to the strength and duration of subsequent advances, it gives this bull market an additional reason to celebrate its upcoming fifth birthday in less than a month."

--- Written by Jane Searle, Andrea Tse and Joe Deaux in New York

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