NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. stocks rose on Friday with the Dow surpassing 11,000 for the first time in a year-and-a-half after Chevron’s upbeat outlook and wholesale inventories data reinforced bets on an improving economy.
The S&P energy sector .GSPE, up 1.1 percent, led the market’s advance. Chevron Corp (CVX.N) climbed 2.4 percent to $79.50 a day after it said its refining and marketing arm would return to profit in the first quarter.
Data showed U.S. wholesale inventories rose more than expected in February and sales at wholesalers reached their highest level in 16 months, brightening prospects for first-quarter economic and earnings growth.
Shares of technology companies, which are often among the first to benefit from economic strength, also outperformed the broader market. Cisco Systems (CSCO.O) gained 1.2 percent to $26.60 and Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) added 1.4 percent to $30.33.
“Most investors acknowledge that the recession has ended, and the question facing the market now is, ‘Are we moving from a recovery to sustainable growth?’” said Michael Sheldon, chief market strategist at RDM Financial in Westport, Connecticut. “Economic data so far in April has been fairly encouraging.”
The Dow briefly surpassed the psychologically important 11,000 mark late in the session for the first time since September 2008, when Wall Street was reeling from the credit meltdown, though on Friday, the Dow closed a shade below that milestone.
The three major U.S. stock indexes scored a sixth straight week of gains — a positive run not seen since stocks rebounded from more than 12-year lows in March 2009.
The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI gained 70.28 points, or 0.64 percent, to 10,997.35. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index .SPX rose 7.93 points, or 0.67 percent, to 1,194.37. The Nasdaq Composite Index .IXIC added 17.24 points, or 0.71 percent, to 2,454.05.
For the week, the Dow rose 0.6 percent, the S&P 500 gained 1.4 percent and the Nasdaq advanced 2.1 percent.
Though some momentum indicators suggest the rally could start to run out of steam, the market has continued to grind higher and add another leg to the run-up started last March. The S&P 500 has gained 76.5 percent since it hit a 12-year closing low March 9, 2009.
“It’s hard to rationalize how a market can keep going up without increasing amounts of volume to support the rally,” Sheldon said. “At some point, that will become a factor, but at least for now, the trend remains higher.”
Another lift for the energy sector came from Atlas Energy ATLS.O shares, which surged 20.3 percent to $38.25 after Indian energy company Reliance Industries (RELI.BO) agreed to pay $1.7 billion for a stake in an Atlas shale project to provide natural gas.
Department store operator J.C. Penney Co Inc (JCP.N) rose 1.7 percent to $31.52 after Goldman Sachs added the stock to a list of recommended buys.
Palm Inc PALM.O jumped 11 percent to $5.16, capping a volatile week in which the smartphone maker’s stock has seesawed on options market chatter and takeover rumors.
Worries about Greece’s debt problems, which have weighed on stocks for weeks, eased after a European Union source said policy-makers had reached an agreement on terms of possible emergency loans for Athens. The U.S. dollar index .DXY slipped 0.8 percent. Earlier, stocks pared gains on news that Fitch downgraded Greece’s debt rating.
Reporting by Leah Schnurr; Editing by Jan Psachal