Stocks end broadly higher amid positive data

/ Source: The Associated Press

Stocks jumped Wednesday to their best showing in nearly two months after surprisingly strong growth in U.S. and Chinese manufacturing allayed some of the worries that had been building over the global economy in recent weeks.

The Dow Jones industrial average jumped nearly 255 points on the first day of September. With investors pouring into stocks, Treasury prices fell and interest rates rose.

The new reports snapped a string of disappointing economic data that sent stocks slumping in August. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index, the benchmark most widely used by professional investors, lost 4.7 percent in the month, its worst August performance since 2001.

The Institute for Supply Management said manufacturing activity in the U.S. rose in August, in contrast to regional reports from recent weeks that pointed to a slowdown in growth. Economists had expected a decline.

"It gives up hope that things may not be as bad as they seem," said Zahid Siddique, an associate portfolio manager at Gabelli Equity Trust Inc.

Some analysts have said in recent weeks that the slowdown in economic growth could eventually push the country back into recession. Industrial stocks got a big lift from the strong manufacturing report including General Electric Co. and Eaton Corp.

Daniel Penrod, senior industry analyst at the California Credit Union League, said manufacturing reports have become increasingly important because they are a leading indicator for whether companies might start adding new jobs. Investors will be closely watching the Labor Department's monthly employment report on Friday.

"If manufacturers ramp up ... it's going to require hiring," Penrod said. "Getting closer to that threshold (of hiring) is vital to the economy."

The pace of growth in China's manufacturing sector also picked up in August, while economists expected a pullback. Overseas markets rose after Australia said its economy grew in the second quarter at the fastest pace in three years.

The Dow gained 254.75 points, or 2.54 percent, to close at 10,269.47. It was the biggest point and percentage gain on the New York Stock Exchange since July 7 and highest close since Aug. 19.

Other markets followed suit. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 30.96, or 2.95 percent, to 1,080.29, and the Nasdaq gained 62.81, or 2.97 percent, to 2,176.84.

About six stocks rose for every one that fell on the NYSE, where volume came to 1.2 billion shares. All 30 stocks in the Dow industrials closed higher.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, fell to 2.58 percent from 2.47 percent late Tuesday. The yield on government debt anchors borrowing rates for a wide variety of consumer and business loans.

While the manufacturing report didn't fall into the recent pattern of showing slowing growth, market reaction to the data fit a pattern seen throughout the summer: Traders' attention spans are short, and they are reacting only to the very latest economic report.

The manufacturing report "gives some comfort, but that is only good until the next number," said Darell Krasnoff, managing director at Bel Air Investment Advisors.

In corporate news, Burger King Holdings Inc. jumped on reports it could be taken private. Shares of the fast food chain jumped $2.41, or 14.7 percent, to $18.86.

Apple Inc. shares jumped after CEO Steve Jobs announced a new line of iPods. It rose $7.23, or 3 percent, to $250.33.

GE rose 53 cents, or 3.7 percent, to $15.01. Eaton climbed $5.38, or 7.7 percent, to $74.86.

Caterpillar Inc. gained 4.6 percent on the day. The heavy-machinery maker climbed 22.70 to $68.16 after the company announced it will invest $180 million over two years to expand manufacturing in Brazil.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 index jumped 2.1 percent on the upbeat growth report. Hong Kong's Hang Seng and Japan's Nikkei stock average both climbed on the strong Chinese manufacturing data. Major European markets surged by more than 2 percent following the strong economic data in the U.S.