* Stock indexes post biggest weekly percentage gains of 2014
* Export prices rise for third straight month
* Jos. A. Bank to buy Eddie Bauer
* Dow up 0.8 pct, S&P 500 up 0.5 pct, Nasdaq up 0.1 pct
By Ryan Vlastelica
NEW YORK, Feb 14 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks closed higher on
Friday, with major indexes notching a second straight week of
gains as investors were once again willing to overlook some soft
economic data stemming from bad weather.
Gains were broad, with the Nasdaq closing at its highest
level since 2000 and nine of the 10 major S&P 500 sector indexes
rising on the day. The only declining sector was telecom
, which is viewed as a defensive play. Energy,
which is closely tied to the pace of economic growth, was the
day's biggest advancer, up 1.5 percent.
U.S. export prices rose 0.2 percent in January, the third
straight monthly increase in a potentially positive sign for
global economic demand and the outlook for American
In the latest data point affected by harsh winter weather,
factory production fell 0.8 percent in January, the biggest drop
in more than 4-1/2 years. Investors have been willing to forgive
soft data of late, attributing weak results to bad weather as
opposed to a slowing economy.
"While weather is often used as an excuse to get a more
favorable slant on things, half the country has felt a real
impact, which is enough that equity markets can look at the data
and not worry about it," said Jeff Morris, head of U.S. equities
at Standard Life Investments in Boston.
Despite difficult weather, the preliminary reading of the
Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan overall index of consumer
sentiment stood at 81.2 in February, unchanged from the final
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 126.80 points,
or 0.79 percent, to end at 16,154.39. The Standard & Poor's 500
Index gained 8.80 points, or 0.48 percent, to finish at
1,838.63. The Nasdaq Composite Index added 3.35 points,
or 0.08 percent, to close at 4,244.03.
The three major U.S. stock indexes scored their biggest
weekly percentage gains of 2014: The Dow and the S&P 500 each
rose 2.3 percent, while the Nasdaq climbed 2.9 percent. This is
the second straight week of gains for all three. The benchmark
S&P 500 now stands just 0.5 percent away from its all-time
closing high of 1,848.38 set on Jan. 15.
With the market within striking distance of record highs,
investors have been looking for evidence that the market's
valuation is justified.
"The market isn't particularly expensive, but neither does
it strike me as being especially cheap," said Morris, who helps
oversee $292 billion in assets. "It will be a tough slog for the
market to move meaningfully higher from here."
Friday's advance preceded a long holiday weekend for Wall
Street. The U.S. stock market will be closed on Monday for
Men's clothing retailer Jos. A. Bank Clothiers Inc
said it would buy outdoor wear specialist Eddie Bauer for $825
million from private equity firm Golden Gate Capital, spurning
any merger considerations with rival Men's Wearhouse Inc.
Jos. A. Bank shares rose 0.4 percent to $55.12 while Men's
Wearhouse stock slumped 5.3 percent to $44.07.
Insurer American International Group on Thursday
raised its dividend and announced more share buybacks as its
fourth-quarter earnings beat expectations. AIG's stock fell 1.2
percent to $48.98.
Weight Watchers International Inc plunged 28 percent
to $22.10 after it forecast a full-year adjusted profit far
slimmer than estimates.
Cliffs Natural Resources rose 5.8 percent to $23.16
as the best performer in the S&P 500. Much better-than-expected
earnings were helped by a drop in costs and higher iron ore
GNC Holdings Inc tumbled 14.6 percent to $44.72. The
health supplements retailer posted weaker-than-expected
VF Corp declined 5.1 percent to $56.85 after the
apparel company reported fourth-quarter earnings and issued its
With 398 S&P 500 companies having posted results so far,
66.3 percent have reported earnings that beat expectations,
above the historical average of 63 percent, according to Thomson
Reuters data. More than 64 percent have topped estimates on
revenue, above the long-term average of 61 percent.
LCA-Vision Inc jumped 28 percent to $5.44 after the
laser vision correction services company agreed to be acquired
by skin health company PhotoMedex Inc for about $106
million. PhotoMedex rose 1.3 percent to $14.
Advancers outnumbered decliners by a ratio of 2 to 1 on the
New York Stock Exchange, while on the Nasdaq, nearly seven
stocks rose for every six that fell.
About 5.1 billion shares traded on all U.S. platforms,
according to BATS exchange data.