* Surge in factory activity boosts U.S. equities
* Weak euro zone, Chinese data hit shares outside U.S.
* Euro falls vs dollar after PMI data
By Herbert Lash
NEW YORK, Feb 20 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks and the dollar rose on Thursday on data showing American factory activity accelerated in February at its fastest clip in nearly four years, but surveys showing a soft patch in China and parts of Europe dragged on global equity markets.
Markit’s preliminary U.S. Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index rose to 56.7 in February, its highest level since May 2010, from a final reading for January of 53.7. A reading above 50 indicates expansion.
Wall Street has shrugged off recent tepid data that suggested economic weakness, blaming the soft results on an unusually cold winter.
“The manufacturing data is extremely positive, especially coming after a spate of bad news at a time when the (Federal Reserve) seems committed to slowing stimulus,” said Nicholas Colas, chief market strategist at the ConvergEx Group in New York.
Even so, Colas said the U.S. equity market’s strength is somewhat surprising given weakness in overseas markets.
“It is good to see investors buying on dips, but I’ve also been hearing a lot more bearish chatter,” Colas said.
Shares in Europe retreated from four-week highs on Chinese and southern European data, while a poor corporate earnings outlook hurt cyclical sectors such as mining and industrials.
But European markets trimmed losses in late trading on the U.S. factory report. News that the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell last week also buoyed markets, as it pointed to steadily improving U.S. labor market conditions despite two straight months of weak hiring.
Markit’s Composite Purchasing Managers’ Index for the euro zone dipped in February, although it held just below January’s 31-month high. The service sector in France shrank at its fastest pace in nine months.
MSCI’s all-country world equity index, a measure of equity markets in 45 countries, was down 0.13 percent. Its emerging markets index was down 0.93 percent, while the FTSEurofirst 300 index of leading European shares closed down 0.01 percent to 1,338.77.
On Wall Street, the benchmark S&P 500 ended less than 0.5 percent below its record close in January of 1,848.38 points.
The Dow Jones industrial average closed up 92.67 points, or 0.58 percent, to 16,133.23. The S&P 500 gained 11.03 points, or 0.6 percent, to 1,839.78, and the Nasdaq Composite added 29.591 points, or 0.7 percent, to 4,267.545.
Shares of both Facebook and Tesla shot to record highs.
Tesla Motors Inc hit an all-time high of $215.21 a day after it reported fourth-quarter results that topped expectations and said deliveries of its luxury Model S electric sedan would surge more than 55 percent this year. Shares closed up 8.4 percent at $209.97.
Social networking giant Facebook Inc surged a day after it said it would buy mobile-messaging startup WhatsApp for $16 billion in cash and stock, plus an additional $3 billion worth of restricted stock units to WhatsApp’s founders. Facebook shares rose 2.3 percent to $69.63 in heavy trading after earlier hitting a new high of $70.11.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc, the world’s biggest retailer, was the Dow’s biggest decliner, falling 1.8 percent to $73.52 after the company reported a drop in U.S. same-store sales and gave an earnings outlook that was below expectations.
The dollar strengthened on the relatively strong U.S. data and after euro zone business surveys pointed to a sluggish recovery and a fragile outlook, which hurt the euro.
The dollar index rose 0.17 percent to 80.277, while against the Japanese yen the dollar traded near break-even at 102.32 yen.
The euro fell as low as $1.3688, pulling away further from a seven-week high of $1.37735 struck on Wednesday. It last traded down 0.09 percent at $1.3720.
“The U.S. economic data this morning definitely benefited the dollar across the board,” said Blake Jespersen, managing director of foreign exchange at BMO Capital Markets in Toronto.
Treasuries prices fell as the mostly positive U.S. economic data met expectations.
The 10-year U.S. Treasury note trimmed losses to fall 5/32 in price to yield 2.7518 percent.
Spanish bond yields bounced off eight-year lows even as another plump debt sale helped Madrid complete about a quarter of its 2014 debt program just as uncertainty over the euro zone growth outlook resurfaced.
Spanish 10-year yields rose 48 basis points to 3.611 percent.
German 10-year Bund yields, the benchmark for euro zone borrowing costs, were up 32 basis points at 1.694 percent.
U.S. crude oil inched lower after data showed U.S. heating oil stockpiles fell less than expected and on the weak Chinese economic numbers.
Bund futures fell 46 ticks to settle at 143.45.
Brent crude slipped toward $110 a barrel after the data pointing to slower growth in China, the world’s second-largest oil consumer.
Brent eased 17 cents to settle at $110.30 a barrel. U.S. crude edged down 39 cents to settle at $102.92.