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U.S. Stocks Rally After Two-Day Slump; German Data Upbeat

02/22/2013 | 12:18pm US/Eastern

--U.S. stocks gain after two-day drop

--German business confidence tops expectations

--H-P, AIG rally after reporting quarterly results

  By Matt Jarzemsky 

Hewlett-Packard and American International Group helped lead U.S. stocks' rebound from a two-day slump, as investors cheered a strong reading on German business confidence.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average advanced 58 points, or 0.4%, to 13939 in midday trading, following a 155-point tumble the past two days.

The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index tacked on six points, or 0.4%, to 1509. The index was poised to snap a seven-week streak of weekly gains because of recent days' selling. The Nasdaq Composite Index rose 15 points, or 0.5%, to 3146.

"Any selloff we get is going to be shallow," said Scott Wren, senior equity strategist at Wells Fargo Advisors, which manages $1.2 trillion in St. Louis. "The mentality is, 'I want to wait for the market to pull back so I can buy stocks at lower levels.' The Fed's on our side, companies are making money and the growth environment is OK."

Hewlett-Packard climbed 10%, leading the Dow higher, after the technology company reported a quarterly profit that topped analysts' expectations and gave a better-than-expected earnings forecast.

Financial shares in the S&P 500 led gains across all 10 of the index's sectors as AIG gained 2.6%. The insurer reported a surprise operating profit.

European markets were broadly higher, with the Stoxx Europe 600 up 1.3% to recover most of the sharp losses suffered in the previous session, after data showed German business confidence increased much more than expected in February. That helped offset a prediction by the European Union's official economists that the euro-zone economy will contract in 2013 for the second-straight year.

The Ifo Institute's business confidence index rose to 107.4, the biggest monthly gain since July 2010, from January's 104.3 and above economist estimates of 104.7. Germany's DAX index climbed 0.8%.

"From the U.S. perspective, Germany is a very industrial and export-oriented economy; If they're seeing optimism on their order books, then there's reason to be optimistic globally," said Wasif Latif, vice president of equity investments at USAA Investments in San Antonio. His firm manages $54 billion.

Elsewhere, Italy's FTSE MIB index advanced 1.5%. The index had fallen sharply this week to close Thursday at a two-month low ahead of general elections in Italy this weekend, with investors fearing a new government may not continue the country's reformist path.

Asian markets were mixed, with China's Shanghai Composite falling 0.5% to a one-month low and Hong Kong's Hang Seng shedding 0.5% to a two-month low. Investors are concerned that policy makers will implement additional tightening measures to control residential property prices. Meanwhile, Japan's Nikkei Stock Average gained 0.7% and Australia's S&P ASX 200 added 0.8% after suffering sharp losses on Thursday.

April crude-oil futures slid 0.2% to $92.68 a barrel, while February gold futures retreated 0.4% to $1,573.10 an ounce. The dollar rose against the yen and the euro. The 10-year Treasury note edged up in price to yield 1.965%.

In other corporate news, Cabot Oil & Gas jumped 7.7% after the U.S. natural-gas producer's earnings jumped 55% on higher production.

Texas Instruments advanced 4.5% after the chip maker unveiled a 33% increase in its quarterly dividend and increased its stock repurchase authorization by $5 billion.

Abercrombie & Fitch slipped 6.3% after giving a current-year earnings forecast that lagged analysts' projections and saying it expects to close 40 to 50 stores in the U.S. in 2013.

Vivus dropped 4.8% after the pharmaceutical company said a European Medicines Agency committee backed an earlier decision, in which the committee recommended against approval of its weight-loss drug.

WebMD Health surged 22% after the health-information provider's adjusted fourth-quarter earnings and revenue beat analyst estimates and its 2013 earnings outlook topped forecasts.

Write to Matt Jarzemsky at matthew.jarzemsky@dowjones.com

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