Wall St ends up on optimism Fed stimulus to remain

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - United States (US) stocks rose on Thursday, rebounding from the previous session's losses, as tepid economic data eased concerns the US Federal Reserve would begin to gradually scale back its policy of stimulating growth.

The day's gain put the S&P 500 on track to end the month about 3.6 per cent higher, while the Dow was up 3.3 per cent for the month so far. The Nasdaq was up 4.9 per cent.

Stocks have been volatile recently and closely tied to alternating views of the future of the Fed's loose monetary policy. Shares tumbled on Wednesday on concern the Fed would curb its bond-buying because of signs the economy was strengthening. US Treasury bond yields rose to the highest in 13 months the same day, also influenced by concern about possible Fed tapering.

"It won't be until around September before we really hear about possible changes in Fed (policy), but the market is volatile because at these levels, profit-taking is part of a hedging method to protect against possible downsides," said Mr Randy Frederick, director of trading and derivatives at Charles Schwab in Austin, Texas. "After the profit-taking, the market moves right back up because it's a great buying opportunity, like today."

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 21.73 points, or 0.14 per cent, at 15,324.53. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 6.05 points, or 0.37 per cent, at 1,654.41. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 23.78 points, or 0.69 per cent, at 3,491.30.

Data showed first-time claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly rose in the latest week while the government's latest reading on first-quarter gross domestic product came in slightly below forecasts.

Loose monetary policies by central banks around the world have helped drive both the Dow and the S&P 500 to record highs.

The S&P 500 is up more than 16 per cent this year so far.

Even if US economic data signals strength, "the stock market has yet to fully embrace the notion that the economy has reached take-off velocity and is ready to contend with a removal of stimulus", said Mr Andrew Wilkinson, chief economic strategist Miller Tabak & Co in New York.

Pending home sales rose 0.3 per cent in April to the highest since April 2010, but analysts had expected a 1.1 per cent rise.

In company news, Costco Wholesale Corp, the largest US warehouse club chain, reported third-quarter earnings that beat expectations by a penny, though sales were below forecasts.

Shares fell 0.9 per cent to US$111.88 (S$141.90).

Semiconductors were higher after chipmaker Avago Technologies forecast current-quarter revenue largely above expectations. Avago shares jumped 9.8 per cent to US$37.82 while the PHLX semiconductor index climbed 1.5 per cent.

NV Energy Inc surged 22.5 per cent to US$23.62 after a unit of Berkshire Hathaway Inc agreed to buy the electric utility for US$5.6 billion. Berkshire class B shares rose 1.6 per cent to US$114.84.

Shares of EMC Corp, the data storage equipment makers, rose 5.4 per cent to US$24.93 after instituting a quarterly dividend and increasing its stock buyback programme to US$6 billion from US$1 billion.

Volume was roughly 6.5 billion shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange, the Nasdaq and the NYSE MKT, slightly above the average daily closing volume of about 6.4 billion this year.

Advancers outpaced decliners on the NYSE 1,756 to 1,208. On the Nasdaq, advancers beat decliners 1,728 to 772.