* S&P 500 at record, on track for strong week and month
* Fourth-quarter GDP, pending home sales miss expectations
* Jos. A. Bank rejects buyout offer, but willing to talk
* Indexes up: Dow 0.6 pct, S&P 0.6 pct, Nasdaq 0.4 pct
By Ryan Vlastelica
NEW YORK, Feb 28 U.S. stocks rose on Friday as
some positive economic data boosted the S&P 500 to record levels
for a second straight day and put major indexes on track for
strong gains in both the week and the month.
However, a discouraging read on economic growth pointed to
an economy that continues to struggle, leaving some investors to
question whether valuations are justified.
The Chicago Purchasing Managers Index rose to 59.8 in
February, topping expectations, while the final February reading
on consumer sentiment from the Thomson Reuters/University of
Michigan Surveys of Consumers also rose more than expected.
The data bucked the trend of indicators coming in below
forecasts, giving credence to the theory that the recent
disappointments have come on harsh weather rather than weakening
fundamentals. Stocks rose on Thursday, with the S&P 500 closing
at a record, after Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen indicated
support for this theory.
Other reports released on Friday suggested an economy that
struggles to gain traction. GDP was estimated to have grown at
an annual rate of 2.4 percent in the quarter, the Commerce
Department said. That was below estimates and down sharply both
from its estimate last month of 3.2 percent and the 4.1 percent
rate in the third quarter. Separately, pending home sales rose
0.1 percent in January, far below expectations for growth of 2
"The market has been giving a pass on these reports, which
leaves me feeling a bit more vulnerable than I'd like, even
though I do think this will end up being more about weather than
weakness," said Bill Stone, chief investment strategist at PNC
Wealth Management in Philadelphia, which has $125 billion in
assets under management.
"Right now valuations are in that middle range, not so high
that they're in a bubble or super expensive, but also not so low
that they're cheap. There's not much in equities that really
stands out as a beacon of opportunity."
The Dow Jones industrial average was up 100.04
points, or 0.61 percent, at 16,372.69. The Standard & Poor's 500
Index was up 11.32 points, or 0.61 percent, at 1,865.61.
The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 19.09 points, or 0.44
percent, at 4,338.02.
For the month, the Dow is up 4.2 percent, the S&P is up 4.5
percent and the Nasdaq is up 5.7 percent. For the week, the Dow
is up 1.6 percent, the S&P is up 1.5 percent and the Nasdaq is
up 1.7 percent, on track for its fourth straight weekly rise.
Citigroup Inc said it would lower its previously
announced 2013 net income from $13.9 billion to $13.7 billion
due to recently discovered fraud at a unit in Mexico. Shares
rose 0.1 percent to $48.76.
Salesforce.com Inc late Thursday raised its
full-year revenue forecast and said it was looking to improve
its adjusted operating margin. Shares fell 2 percent to $64.90.
Jos. A. Bank Clothiers Inc late Thursday rejected
Men's Wearhouse Inc's revised takeover offer, calling it
inadequate, though it was willing to talk about a higher bid.
Shares of Jos. A. Bank rose 2.8 percent to $62 while Men's
Wearhouse was up 5.5 percent at $53.21.
In testimony before the Senate Banking Committee, Yellen
said it would take a "significant change" to the economy's
prospects for the central bank to put plans to reduce its
bond-buying program on hold.
On Friday, Dallas Federal Reserve Bank President Richard
Fisher said the central bank should halt its stimulus as soon as
circumstances make it possible.