New York Report: Factory figures help S&P 500 to record close

US STOCKS rose for a third straight session yesterday, with the S&P 500 ending at a record close, after positive data on factory activity indicated economic growth was gaining traction following a harsh winter.

The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) said its index of national factory activity rose to 53.7 in March, its second straight monthly acceleration. Yet the report was below the median forecast of 54.

The ISM report was the latest to point to improving economic conditions, giving credence to the theory that soft data earlier this year was due to weather and not weakening fundamentals.

Ford Motors jumped 4.6 per cent to $16.32. US auto sales rose more than expected in March, following two months when demand was hampered by weather.

General Motors dipped 0.2 per cent to $34.34, although its March sales also topped forecasts. Mary Barra, the company’s chief executive, told a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee GM has retained Kenneth Feinberg as a consultant to gauge possible responses to families of those injured or killed in crashes involving recalled cars.

Among tech names, Google rose 1.8 per cent and Microsoft added one per cent.

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 74.95 points, or 0.46 per cent, at 16,532.61. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index was up 13.18 points, or 0.7 per cent, at 1,885.52. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 69.05 points, or 1.64 per cent, at 4,268.04.

The S&P 500 has gained for three straight sessions, up about two per cent over that period.