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US stocks jump as worries over Crimea vote fade

U.S. stocks closed higher Monday as market posts meager gafor first three months year. | AP file photo

U.S. stocks closed higher Monday as the market posts a meager gain for the first three months of the year. | AP file photo

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Updated: March 17, 2014 4:07PM



NEW YORK — Investors were able to put aside the ongoing political turmoil in Ukraine on Monday to focus on a bit of good news on the U.S. economy.

Stocks ended sharply higher, helped by a report that showed factory output rebounded last month.

The Dow Jones industrial average added 181.55 points, or 1.1 percent, to 16,247.22. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 17.70 points, or 1 percent, to 1,858.83 and the Nasdaq composite rose 34.55 points, or 0.8 percent, to 4,279.95.

The market’s gains were broad. All 30 members of the Dow and all 10 industry groups of the S&P 500 rose.

Technology stocks were among the biggest gainers, led by Yahoo, which rose 4 percent. Yahoo owns a quarter of the Chinese e-commerce website AliBaba, which announced plans to go public in the U.S. While relatively unknown in the U.S., AliBaba is one of the world’s most-trafficked websites in the world’s second-largest economy. Yahoo rose $1.51 to $39.11.

Other tech stocks also rose, including Microsoft, Google and Amazon.

Monday’s advance comes after stocks spent much of last week in retreat. The major indexes fell roughly 2 percent, their worst week since January, on concerns that the tensions between Ukraine and Russia could boil over. Those tensions are no closer to being resolved, but so far armed conflict does not appear to be in the cards.

Crimeans overwhelmingly voted Sunday in favor of Crimea breaking away from Ukraine to return to Russia. While destabilizing to Ukraine, the results were what investors and international observers widely expected. More importantly, the controversial vote, while widely considered illegitimate by the international community, happened without any major violence.

“Russia got what it wanted without having to take Crimea by force,” said Sam Stovall, chief equity strategist with S&P Capital IQ.

Both the White House and the European Union announced sanctions and visa restrictions against several Russian officials as a result of the referendum. The U.S. imposed sanctions on seven Russian government officials as well as four Ukrainians, including former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. The EU slapped travel bans and asset freezes on 21 people from Russia and Crimea.

With the Crimean vote behind them, U.S. investors exited their traditional safe havens to return to riskier parts of the market. Bond prices fell, pushing the yield of 10-year Treasury note up to 2.70 percent from 2.66 percent Friday. The price of gold fell modestly.

Utilities, a popular industry sector in times of uncertainty, rose less than the rest of the market. The Dow Jones Utility Average, which tracks the performance of 15 utility companies, rose 0.7 percent on Monday versus the S&P 500’s 1 percent gain.

Back in the U.S., investors got a dose of good news on economy.

The Federal Reserve said factory output rebounded in February after harsh winter storms caused a steep drop-off in January. Manufacturers produced more autos, home electronics and chemicals. The 0.6 percent rise was triple the increase that economists had expected.

“It’s another small piece of evidence that the economy is beginning to thaw from the winter,” said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank, which oversees $66 billion in assets.

The Federal Reserve will hold a two-day policy meeting starting Tuesday. Investors expect the central bank to pull back further on its bond-buying economic stimulus program, as it has done for the last two meetings. The Fed will announce its decision Wednesday.

In currency trading, the dollar rose to 6.177 Chinese yuan, up 0.4 percent from late Friday — a sharp move for one currency on a single day. The yuan has reversed course recently after strengthening steadily for years. Analysts believe China’s central bank is guiding the exchange rate lower against the dollar in an effort to discourage speculators from moving money into the country to profit from the yuan’s rise.



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