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Stocks End Higher as Fed Fears Ease

Stocks ended higher, as U.S. leading indicators and regional manufacturing data spurred optimism the economy would strengthen.
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Stocks climbed Thursday, recovering much of the prior day's losses, as reports on U.S. leading indicators and regional manufacturing spurred optimism the nation's economy would strengthen after first-quarter weakness, helping offset concerns that interest rates could climb more quickly than had been anticipated.

"We're getting back what we lost, now that people have had a chance to reflect; the Fed is in no hurry to normalize the Fed funds rate. That exercise is going to be very deliberate and glacial, and the market is perhaps settling into that recognition," said Mark Luschini, chief investment strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott.

Wall Street declined Wednesday, halting a two-day climb that had the S&P 500 not far from its record close, after Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said that the "considerable period" between the end of the central bank's quantitative-easing program and its first rate hike could be six months.

Data released Thursday had the count of Americans filing for jobless benefits rising by 5,000 to 320,000 last week, less than the 325,000 estimated by economists polled by Reuters.

Other reports had existing-home sales for February falling to 4.60 million compared to a 4.66 million estimate. Leading indicators rose 0.5 percent in February, versus estimates of a 0.4 percent rise, and the Philadelphia Fed's manufacturing gauge climbed to 9.0 in March from negative 6.3 the previous month.

Clearing a 61-point drop, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose as much as 131 points, and closed up 0.7 percent, with AT&T, JPMorgan Chase and Microsoft leading gains.

The S&P 500 added 0.6 percent, with telecommunications and financials leading sector gains and health care and industrials the biggest laggards. TheNasdaqgained 0.3 percent.