Wall St. closes higher; Nasdaq up for sixth straight day

NEW YORK Thu Feb 13, 2014 4:43pm EST

1 of 5. Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange February 12, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Brendan McDermid

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stocks closed higher on Thursday, with the Nasdaq rising for a sixth straight day, as investors looked past disappointing data on consumer spending, chalking the weakness up to weather instead of weaker fundamentals.

The Nasdaq is up about 5.7 percent over the past six sessions, its best six-day advance since December 2011. Both the Dow and S&P 500 rose for the fifth session out of the last six.

Indexes opened lower but gained throughout the session, although Cisco Systems (CSCO.O), which sank after warning about a slump in revenue, limited the Dow's advance.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits unexpectedly rose last week while January retail sales fell and December retail sales were revised lower.

"Investors have restored some enthusiasm for equities that was lost in the first few weeks of the year, and with weather seeming to be such a factor, they're able to shrug this off," said Mark Luschini, chief investment strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott in Philadelphia.

Dow component Cisco fell 2.5 percent to $22.27 as one of the biggest drags on all three major U.S. indexes. The network-gear maker forecast a 6 to 8 percent drop in revenue in the current quarter.

"Cisco has been having problems with competition, so I don't view that as indicative of tech in the aggregate or consumer spending," said Luschini, who helps oversee $63 billion in assets. "This is company-specific, which is allowing other tech to shrug off that outlook."

The S&P tech sector .SPLRCT rose 0.9 percent, boosted by Facebook Inc (FB.O) and SanDisk Corp (SNDK.O).

The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI was up 63.65 points, or 0.40 percent, at 16,027.59. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index .SPX was up 10.57 points, or 0.58 percent, at 1,829.83. The Nasdaq Composite Index .IXIC was up 39.38 points, or 0.94 percent, at 4,240.67.

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.

A deadly winter storm moved north along the East Coast of the United States on Thursday, bringing heavy snow, sleet and rain across the Washington, D.C., and New York areas, grounding flights and shutting government offices.

A scheduled U.S. Senate hearing with Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen on Thursday was postponed due to the snow. Yellen's testimony Tuesday helped fuel strong gains on Wall Street.

Whole Foods Market Inc (WFM.O) lost 7.2 percent to $51.46. The largest U.S. organic and natural food retailer stunned investors on Wednesday by cutting its 2014 sales forecast for the second time in three months.

Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co (GT.O) surged 11.5 percent to $26.94 it posted a higher-than-expected fourth-quarter profit on Thursday and said it had fully funded its hourly U.S. pension plan.

Of the 382 companies in the S&P 500 that reported earnings through Thursday morning, 67.5 percent beat profit expectations,

above the 63 percent average since 1994 and slightly above the 67 percent rate for the past four quarters, according to Thomson Reuters data.

After the market closed, American International Group Inc (AIG.N) rose 3.2 percent after it reported results and raised its dividend. Brocade Communications (BRCD.O) shares jumped 7.7 percent after the bell.

Avon Products Inc (AVP.N) shed 2.9 percent to $14.62. The beauty products company said it may pay as much as $132 million to settle a U.S. bribery investigation into its efforts to develop new markets overseas.

About 5.96 billion shares traded on all U.S. platforms, according to BATS exchange data. About 70 percent of companies traded on both the New York Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq closed higher.

(Editing by Nick Zieminski)