FOX Business: Capitalism Lives Here

Wall Street shifted into rally mode on Thursday as traders shrugged off contradictory data on the American factory sector.

Today's Markets

As of 2:38 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 102 points, or 0.64%, to 16143, the S&P 500 advanced 10.5 points, or 0.57%, to 1839 and the Nasdaq Composite climbed 24 points, or 0.58%, to 4262.

The U.S. economy may or may not be overcoming the impact of bad weather. 

A report from Markit showed the factory sector revving up at a much faster pace in February than the month prior. The PMI gauge jumped to 56.7 -- a nearly four-year high -- from 53.7. 

"The flash manufacturing PMI provides the first indications that production has rebounded from the weather-related slowdown seen in January," Markit's chief economist, Chris Williamson, said in the report. "While the strong PMI reading in part represents are rebound from the temporary weakness seen at the start of the year, further growth looks likely in coming months, suggesting the underlying health of the economy remains robust."

However, the Philadelphia Federal Reserve said manufacturing activity in the mid-Atlantic region contracted in February with its gauge coming in at -6.3, from 9.4 in January, far below Wall Street’s estimate of 8. Readings above 0 point to expansion while those below point to contraction.

The Labor Department said the number of Americans filing for first-time unemployment benefits fell last week to 336,000 from 339,000 the week prior. Wall Street was looking for claims to fall to 335,000. A separate report from Labor showed reports prices for consumer goods rose 0.1% in January, matching Wall Street’s expectations. Excluding the food and energy components, prices were also up 0.1% for the month, also meeting estimates. 

Later, at 10:00 a.m. ET, the Philadelphia Federal Reserve releases its closely-watched measure of manufacturing activity in the mid-Atlantic region. 

On the foreign front, A key report on China's vast manufacturing sector from HSBC showed growth cooled off more than expected this month. 

"Results from this private sector survey have deteriorated for four months now, which indicates an unambiguous trend of domestic growth deceleration, in our view," analysts at Societe Generale wrote to clients. "Given the unexpectedly robust trade data earlier, policymakers may wait for more real data (with the first batch due in mid March) to judge the situation."

There have been fears for years that China -- the world's No. 2 economy -- could be in for a hard landing in which once blockbuster growth sharply cools off. 

A reading on the eurozone manufacturing sector also showed the 18-member currency bloc's output growing at a slower rate than expected. 

In corporate news, Facebook (FB) said after the closing bell Wednesday it will pay up to $19 billion to buy short-messaging app WhatsApp. Wal-Mart (WMT) posted quarterly earnings that narrowly topped estimates, but a weak forecast drove shares of the world's largest retailer into the red. 

Elsewhere, U.S. crude oil futures slipped 32 cents, or 0.31%, to $102.99 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline sold off by 1.2% to $2.791 a gallon. Gold fell $10.10, or 0.76%, to $1,310 a troy ounce. 

Follow Adam Samson on Twitter @adamsamson.