Dow advances as upbeat data buoys investors

Stocks rose on Friday as an upbeat report on consumer sentiment and rising factory output offset falling housing starts and rumors of staff turmoil in the White House.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 72.85 points, or 0.29%, to 24,946.51. The S&P 500 advanced 9.6 points, or 0.35%, to 2,757.07. The Nasdaq Composite ticked 0.25 points higher to 7,481.99.

The rally wasn’t enough to erase losses posted earlier in the week due to lingering concerns over U.S. trade tensions. The Dow fell 1.54% on the week, while the broader S&P 500 lost 1.25%. Boeing, which could suffer from higher costs associated with steel tariffs, has pulled the Dow lower. The aircraft maker fell for four straight sessions to start the week.

Positive news on Friday included the University of Michigan's consumer sentiment index rising to 102 in March, its highest level since 2004, from February's 99.7. Meanwhile, U.S. factory output jumped 1.2% last month on strong production of cars and computers.

Negative news included a report that U.S. housing starts, a measure of future growth, fell 7% in February to a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 1.24 million, a decline that was anticipated after construction surged in January to 1.33 million, and retail sales fell for the third month in a row. In addition, there is published speculation that National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster could be the latest Trump official to step down even though the administration is denying such reports. Finally, investors continue to worry about the prospects for a trade war arising from President Trump's decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

Earlier in the day, equities moved up and down in a tight range, suggesting investors were being cautious as they weighed possible risks and rewards.

"Caution lingers amid risk factors from heightened trade tensions between U.S. and China, U.S. politics and geopolitical tensions in Europe," Mizuho Bank said in a note.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.