Stocks Can't Be Stopped, Rise on U.S. Economy Confidence

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Major U.S. markets closed higher Friday, led by energy stocks, after a consumer confidence gauge reached a post-crisis high and an upbeat report on U.S. economic activity bolstered the outlook for the world's largest economy.

The S&P 500 gained 1% to 1,666.12.

"The rise in consumer confidence appears to be a longer-lasting vote of support for the longevity of the U.S. economic recovery," Andrew Wilkinson, the New York City-based chief economic strategist at Miller Tabak & Co., wrote in a report.

Noble Corp. ( NE) gained 1.9% to $40.66 and Rowan Companies ( RDC) advanced 2.5% to $35.70. The heads of both offshore oil and gas drilling contractors are scheduled to present at the UBS Global Oil and Gas Conference in Austin, Texas on Tuesday, May 21, 2013.

Tesoro Corp. ( TSO) was rising 7% to $62.24 after Reuters reported Thursday, citing sources close to the deal, that the independent western U.S. refiner may take ownership of BP's ( BP) 240,000 barrel a day refinery in Carson, Calif. as early as June 1. This, as the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, which assessed the deal to ensure that it complied with antitrust laws, is prepared to approve the purchase within days, Reuters reported.

The University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index indicated a rise in confidence in May, showing an increase to a better-than-expected 83.7, its highest level since Sept. 2007, and up from 76.4 in April. Economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters were on average expecting an improvement to 78 in May.

The Conference Board's Index of Leading Indicators also was an upbeat report, with a rise of 0.6% in April, the best print on this gauge since Feb 2012 and better than the increase of 0.2% forecast by economists.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was gaining 0.42% to 15,297.30.

Northrop Grumman ( NOC) was rising 4% to $82.19 after the defense contractor authorized an additional $4 billion for its stock repurchasing program, saying that it plans to buy back 25% of its outstanding shares by the end of 2015.

Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank President Narayana Kocherlakota speaks at a panel on monetary policy and financial regulation at the University of Chicago Booth School at 1:45 p.m.

June gold contracts were down $9.10 to $1,377.80 an ounce. June light sweet crude oil futures were up 94 cents to $96.10 a barrel.

Written by Andrea Tse in New York

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