NEW YORK – Stocks were propelled higher Friday as better-than-expected industrial production and consumer sentiment numbers helped the market overcome a weak forecast from software giant Oracle Corp.
The Dow rose 90.09 points, or 0.86 percent, to 10,607.23, according to the latest data, while the Nasdaq composite was up 14.15 points, or 0.76 percent, at 1,868.29. The benchmark Standard & Poor's 500 index climbed 13.12 points, or 1.14 percent, to 1,166.16.
For the week, the Nasdaq fell 3.2 percent, the Dow gained 0.3 percent and the S&P 500 rose 0.2 percent.
"The numbers that came out -- right across the board they were positive," said Rick Jandrain, chief investment officer at Banc One Investment Advisors. "Better economic growth in a low-inflation environment should be good for stocks."
In the most dramatic sign yet that the manufacturing sector is on the road to recovery, industrial production for February rose by 0.4 percent, posting its biggest advance in more than 18 months.
The latest snapshot of industrial activity provides the clearest signal yet that the manufacturing sector is pulling out of a long slump that had forced factories to sharply cut production and let thousands of workers go.
Also, the University of Michigan's preliminary consumer sentiment index an index jumped in March to its highest level since December 2000 as the labor market improved and stocks rebounded. The index rose in March to 95.0 from a final reading of 90.7 in February. Forecasts were for a reading of 92.9.
Stocks gained sharply early this month amid mounting hopes the economy is on the mend, but questions about the anticipated rebound's vigor and worries that stock prices have outpaced profit forecasts crimped sentiment in recent sessions.
But concerns that corporate profits will still struggle, however, kept a lid on gains, particularly in the tech sector. Oracle Corp. (ORCL), the world's No. 2 software maker, aggravated worries over earnings in the high-tech sector after giving a weak forecast late Thursday, amid a technology spending slump.
"Everybody's ramping up for better times ahead economically, but it just seems like there's going to be a lag between the economy turning and then the fortunes of corporate America turning," said Charles Payne, analyst at Wall Street Strategies.
Oil giant Exxon (XOM) gained 37 cents to $43.61. Offshore oil and gas driller Rowan Cos. Inc. (RDC) gained 98 cents to $21.86 after it said it will be paid $175 million by BP Plc (BP) and its partners as part of a settlement in the dispute over an offshore drilling rig.
Media stocks also rose after a trade group report showed revenues gained for the first time in a year, boosting speculation the advertising recession may be over. One big winner was Clear Channel (CCU), which rose $2.18 to $51.97.
Drugmaker Merck & Co. Inc. (MRK), however, capped the Dow with a drop of $3.69 to $59.75. Merck said it yanked the U.S. marketing application for a new arthritis drug but will refile at an unspecified later date for broader use for the medicine.
Rival Pfizer Inc. (PFE) rose $1.42 to $41.37.
U.S. wholesale prices also nudged higher in February, pushed by rising gasoline prices, the government said in a separate report that showed little evidence that inflation pressures were building in the economy.
Solid consumer spending helped make the recession one of the mildest since World War Two, but economists fear a recovery could be mild because there is little pent-up consumer demand.
Investors are also on edge about the Federal Reserve's policy-setting meeting next week.
"People anticipate the Fed will shift to a neutral stance, and that would be the first step to raising interest rates." said Edgar Peters, chief investment officer at PanAgora Asset Management Inc, which manages $15 billion.
Many analysts expect the central bank to adopt a neutral "balance of risks" stance, instead of the one in place for more than a year now describing risks to the economy as being tilted toward further weakness.
One bright spot in the tech sector was publishing software maker Adobe Systems Inc. (ADBE), which reported lower net profits and said second-quarter results should be in line with Wall Street's expectations. It jumped $2.59 to $39.18.
Semiconductor shares also gained, bouncing back after sliding sharply throughout the week. Chip giant Intel Corp. (INTC) rose 77 cents to to $31.74. The Philadelphia Stock Exchange's semiconductor index rose 2.54 percent after losing 9 percent in the past four sessions.
Support, a region where buyers are likely to scoop up stocks, is at 1,840 to 1,820 on the Nasdaq. Support is set for the S&P 500 at 1,145 to 1,134 points and for the Dow at 10,430 to 10,308, according to SchaefferResearch.com
Resistance, or the area where sellers are expected to emerge, is around 1,875 to 1,900 on the Nasdaq, 1,164 to 1,172 for the S&P, and 10,600 to 10,660 on the Dow.
Trading was active with 1.5 billion shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange and 1.7 billion shares changing hands on Nasdaq.
The Russell 2000 index advanced 1.36 to 499.12.
Overseas, Japan's Nikkei stock average rose 0.7 percent. In Europe, Germany's DAX index gained 2.4 percent, Britain's FT-SE 100 advanced 0.6 percent, and France's CAC-40 climbed 0.9 percent.
Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.