NEW YORK World stock markets edged higher on Thursday as soft U.S. economic data was blamed on bad weather, while the dollar fell to a two-week low against the euro.
U.S. stocks rose, with big gains in technology shares giving the Nasdaq a sixth straight session of gains, its best advance since December 2011.
Unseasonably cold and snowy weather hurt U.S. retail sales, considered a gauge of consumer spending. Sales fell unexpectedly in January, while other data showed more Americans filed for jobless benefits last week.
Large parts of the United States have been gripped by freezing temperatures and snow storms, which caused investors to largely discount both the day's and other recent weak data that suggested the economy started the year on weaker footing.
"We understand the impact the weather is having, and we expect the economy is going to perk up when we get some more seasonal weather in the second quarter," said Phil Orlando, chief equity strategist at Federated Investors in New York.
On Thursday, the eastern United States was in the grip of another deadly winter storm that began late Wednesday. More than 700,000 people were without power.
"The culprit here is the weather, unequivocally," said Russell Price, senior economist at Ameriprise Financial Services Inc, in Troy, Michigan.
The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI rose 63.65 points or 0.40 percent, to end at 16,027.59. The S&P 500 .SPX gained 10.57 points or 0.58 percent, to 1,829.83 while the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC added 39.384 points or 0.94 percent, to 4,240.672.
The Nasdaq gained about 5.7 percent over the past six sessions, its best six-day string of gains since December 2011.
A disappointing outlook from Cisco Systems Inc late Wednesday curbed the Dow's gain. Cisco (CSCO.O) shares fell 2.5 percent to $22.27.
Comcast Corp (CMCSA.O) said it would buy Time Warner Cable Inc (TWC.N) for $45.2 billion in an all-stock deal that combines the two largest U.S. cable operators.
Time Warner Cable shares rose 7 percent to $144.81 while Comcast shed 4.1 percent to $52.97. Shares of Charter Communications Inc (CHTR.O), which had also pursued Time Warner Cable, fell 6.3 percent to $128.91.
The broad MSCI All-Country World Index .MIWD00000PUS was up 0.2 percent, while MSCI's index of emerging market stocks was down 0.8 percent .MSCIEF.
In Europe, shares dipped as losses in Italy weighed on the market because of political uncertainty there that raised worries about efforts to turn around Italy's sputtering economy. However, after the market's close, Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta said he would tender his resignation on Friday, opening the way for center-left leader Matteo Renzi to take the helm.
European stocks snapped a week-long winning streak, with the pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index .FTEU3 ending down 0.1 percent. .EU
Shares of Swiss food group Nestle (NESN.VX) fell 1.5 percent after the company said it may undershoot its long-term growth targets again this year.
In the foreign exchange market, the dollar fell to a two-week low against the euro and slid against other major currencies, after the day's U.S. economic data. U.S. bond prices rose following two days of losses.
The euro rallied against the dollar, to $1.3694, its strongest level since January 27, before trimming gains to trade 0.6 percent higher for the day, at $1.3680.
The benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note rose 8/32 in price to yield 2.73 percent. Ten-year yields earlier hit a session low of 2.72 percent following the U.S. 30-year bond auction.
GOLD TOPS $1,300; OIL PRICES DIP
Gold rose above $1,300 an ounce for the first time in over three months, gaining almost 1 percent after U.S. retail sales data dragged on the dollar and increased bullion's appeal as a currency hedge.
Spot gold rose to $1,302.40, its highest since November 8. It was last up 0.9 percent at $1,301.79 an ounce.
Oil prices ended the session lower, though Brent's losses were limited by a report from the International Energy Agency that developed world inventories fell 1.5 million barrels per day in the last three months of 2013, for the steepest quarterly decline since 1999. <O/R>
Brent crude oil futures fell 6 cents to settle at $108.73 a barrel while U.S. crude oil dipped 2 cents to settle at $100.35.