Manufacturing report boosts stocks

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The Dow Jones industrials rose 29.97 points to close at 12,318.14

US stocks have finished higher after a strong manufacturing report overshadowed a bigger-than-expected rise in the number of people applying for unemployment benefits.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia said its index of manufacturing in the mid-Atlantic region nearly doubled between January and February.

The surge in manufacturing was enough to offset a Labour Department report that applications for unemployment benefits rose 25,000 from the previous week.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 29.97 points, or 0.3%, to 12,318.14. The Dow has been rising steadily this month, with only three down days in February. For the month, it is already up 3.6%. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 4.11, or 0.3%, to 1,340.43. The Nasdaq composite rose 6, or 0.2%, to 2,831.58.

The government also reported that consumer prices in January were slightly higher than forecast, largely a result of rising food and gas prices.

The Consumer Price Index rose 0.4%. The core index, which excludes food and energy costs, looked relatively tame, rising 0.2%. Forecasters had expected to see the price index rise 0.3% last month, and the core index inch up 0.1%.

Barrick Gold, Duke Energy and JM Smucker all rose after reporting stronger earnings results. Barrick’s quarterly profit jumped four-fold, helped by higher production and lower costs. The world’s largest gold miner’s stock gained 1.9%.

Duke Energy’s net income grew 23%, boosted by gains from selling assets and rising customer demand. Duke gained 2.3%. Profit fell at JM Smucker, maker of Jif peanut butter and Folgers coffee, but still beat analysts’ expectations. The company also raised its earnings outlook for the year. JM Smucker rose 4.2%.

Coca-Cola gained 1.8% after it announced that it increased its dividend.

Two stocks rose for every one that fell on the New York Stock Exchange. Volume came to 875 million shares.

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