Exxon and factories light up Wall Street

US stocks rose yesterday as better-than-expected data on the manufacturing sector and earnings from
ExxonMobil revived bullish sentiment after stocks closed out their worst month in almost a year.

Exxon's stock gained 2.7 per cent to end at $66.18 after the largest US oil company reported natural gas products boosted results at its exploration arm. The S&P energy sector index rose three per cent.

The Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing index showed the sector grew in January at a faster rate than expected, following similar surveys from China, Australia and the eurozone.

“The market is starting to become a believer again. We are starting to see good numbers like the ISM, and statistics are proving to be stronger than what the bears can resist,” said Keith Springer, president of Capital Financial Advisory Services in Sacramento, California.

The Dow Jones industrial average shot up 118.20 points, or 1.17 per cent, to close at 10,185.53. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index gained 15.32 points, or 1.43 per cent, at 1,089.19. The Nasdaq Composite Index rose 23.85 points, or 1.11 per cent, at 2,171.20.

The S&P 500’s gain comes after three consecutive weeks of losses, but the broad index is still off 5.3 per cent from its 15-month closing high set on 19 January.

Shares of industrial materials companies gained on the strong global manufacturing data, with aluminum company Alcoa up five per cent at $13.36, and US Steel up 6.5 per cent at $47.32. The Dow Jones industrials metals and mining index rose 6.1 per cent.

In the tech sector, Apple shares climbed 1.4 per cent to close at $194.73, buoying the Nasdaq. The semiconductor index advanced 3.1 per cent, following an analyst’s upgrade of the sector.

Cellphone chip maker Qualcomm gained 1.5 per cent to $39.77 and helped lift the Nasdaq, while International Business Machines rose 1.9 per cent to close at $124.67 on the New York Stock Exchange. IBM ranked among the Dow’s major advancers.

In January’s pullback, the materials and technology sectors were the biggest losers. But the Nasdaq’s advance was curbed by Amazon, whose shares fell 5.2 per cent to $118.87 after the online retailer all but waved the white flag in a dispute with publisher Macmillan that could lead to raising prices on some of its e-books. Warner Chilcott fell 6.8 per cent to $25.46 after Morgan Stanley downgraded the stock.