NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- U.S. stocks were advancing, putting the S&P 500 at a record intraday high and the Dow Industrials in spitting distance of 17,000 for the first time. A full docket of positive economic data releases, including U.S. car sales, key manufacturing data and reports of healthy growth out of China gave the run its initial boost.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 171 points, or 1%, to 16,998 in midday trading. The S&P added 18 points, or 0.9%, to 1979. The Nasdaq surged 63 points, or 1.4%, to 4471.

Detroit automakers reported June vehicle sales better than analysts expected, even with two fewer selling days than the month a year earlier.

General Motors (GM) posted a surprising gain in U.S. unit sales given a series of high-profile recalls. The automaker reported unit sales rose 1% in June to 267,461 compared to expectations of a 6.3% decrease. A day earlier, GM said it had added 8.2 million vehicles to its series of recalls. Year to date, the automaker has recalled a total 29 million units in North America. Shares climbed 2.6% to $37.24.

Ford  (F) saw unit sales drop 5.8%, compared to estimates of a 6.6% decline, while Volkswagen units tumbled 22%, compared to an estimated 4.3% decrease. Meanwhile, Chrysler and Nissan posted a 9% and 5% increase in units sold, respectively. 

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The ISM index, a measure of factory activity, held firm at 55.3, only slightly lower than 55.4 in May. Markit's PMI index of 57.3 was up from 56.4 in May and beat estimates of 57. The reading marked its highest point since May 2010.

May construction spending, however, rose less than expected, edging up only 0.1% to $956.1 billion. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters had forecast an average gain of 0.5%. By sector, private construction, the largest chunk of the measure, slipped 0.3% while public construction topped 1%. 

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European markets were gaining, while Asian markets closed mostly higher (save the Hang Seng, closed in Hong Kong for a public holiday). China PMI helped move markets along, reporting expansion for the first time in six months with a reading of 50.7.

Netflix  (NFLX) shares were on the move, adding 6.2% to $467.73 after bagging an upgrade from Goldman Sachs. The firm revised Netflix to a "buy" rating with a $590 price target, noting scale of content acquisition costs as international growth picks up.

MannKind (MNKD) shares were sliding 4.8% to $10.43, a day after rallying on the Food and Drug Administration's approval for its Afrezza treatment. The biotech was downgraded to "hold" from "buy" at MLV & Co with analysts waiting to see whether the drug proves profitable. 

Twitter  (TWTR) announced it has purchased Tap Commerce, a New York-based mobile advertising technology firm. Separately, the social network is testing a "buy now" feature to some promoted tweets, a move which would introduce e-commerce to the site. Shares popped 4.2% to $42.67.

Acuity Brands  (AYI) slumped 13.4% to $119.69 after missing both third-quarter earnings and revenue estimates. 

--Written by Keris Alison Lahiff in New York.

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