FOX Business: Capitalism Lives Here

U.S. equity markets posted big gains on Thursday as a round of strong economic data helped offset worries about hawkish Fed comments.

Today's Markets

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 108.9 points, or 0.67%, to 16331, the S&P 500 climbed 11.2 points, or 0.6%, to 1872 and the Nasdaq Composite jumped 11.7 points, or 0.27%, to 4319.

Federal Reserve chief Janet Yellen capped her first media briefing as head of the mighty central bank with a bang. But perhaps not exactly the kind of bang she was expecting. 

Wall Street took heavy losses on Wednesday after Yellen said the central bank might start hiking rates from historic lows as soon as six months after it finishes its bond-buying program. That notion, combined with a relatively hawkish interest rate forecast, sent stocks dropping and Treasury yields climbing. 

The Treasury market stabilized on Thursday, with the 10-year yield falling 0.007 percentage point as traders bought the asset. Meanwhile, upbeat economic data helped boost stock prices.

The Philadelphia Fed's gauge of manufacturing activity in March jumped to 9 from -6.3 in February, indicating it flipped into growth from contraction. The results well surpassed Wall Street’s expectations of 3.8. 

At the same time, the National Association of Realtors reported sales of existing single-family homes fell 0.4% to an annualized rate of 4.6 million units in February, matching expectations. Still, it was the lowest reading since July 2012.

The Labor Department said the number of Americans filing for first-time unemployment benefits rose last week to 320,000 from 315,000 the week prior. Wall Street was looking for claims to rise to 325,000. 

Economists and policymakers have said harsh winter weather affected economic data across the board. Those issues are seen as temporary headwinds that should abate as the weather improves. 

In corporate news, Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) said it will hike its regular dividend by 10.2%. 

Elsewhere, U.S. crude oil futures fell 94 cents, or 0.94%, to $99.43 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline dipped 0.93% to $2.896 a gallon. Gold slumped $10.80, or 0.81%, to $1,331 a troy ounce. 

Follow Adam Samson on Twitter @adamsamson.