Dow Leaps in February Finale

FOX Business: The Power to Prosper 

The Dow closed out February in the green as an unexpectedly positive report on U.S. manufacturing restored confidence in the blue chips that were shaken by surging energy prices in the prior week.

Today's Markets

The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 95.89 points, or 0.79%, to 12,226, the S&P 500 Index gained 7.34 points, or 0.56%, to 1,327, and the Nasdaq Composite Index edged higher by 1.22 points, or 0.04%, to 2,782. The FOX 50 was up 6.21 points, or 0.66%, to 940.

Despite last week's volatility, major stock market averages gained in February.  The broad S&P 500 index jumped 3.2% in February, the Nasdaq was up 3% and the Dow added 2.8%.

Utilities like Constellation Energy (NYSE:CEG) charged higher Monday, while technology issues like chip-maker Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) and movie rental company Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) stumbled. Indeed, the technology-heavy Nasdaq seesawed between green and red in throughout the trading day.

Word that several companies are looking to take advantage of buying opportunities and making multi-billion dollar deals was largely regarded as a positive sign for the economy by market participants. Ventas (NYSE:VTR), for instance, said it reached a deal to acquire Nationwide Health Properties (NYSE:NHP) for $5.8 billion.

Traders also closely eyed oil prices that surged 9.1% in the prior week, sparking fears that high energy prices would put a damper on the global economic recovery.

Fears that political unrest in oil-producing Libya would spread to larger oil producers, namely Saudi Arabia, sent oil flying past the $103 threshold in the prior week.

"The market is clearly in a play it by ear mode on what comes next both in terms of the Middle East and sustainability of this spike [in oil prices] and what, if sustained, this will do to the global economy," wrote Peter Boockvar, managing director at Miller Tabak + Co., in a research note.

The U.S. urged its European allies Monday to enforce sanctions on the North African country as forces backed by leader Muammar al-Qaddafi continued clashing with opposition fighters.

Crude settled lower by 91 cents to $96.97 a barrel after jumping to more than $100 overnight. Oil made its biggest-monthly leap since December 2010, surging $4.78, or 5.2%, in February.

Even consumers, who play an important part in economic health, paid more at the pump at the end of February.  According to the AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge Report, drivers paid $3.37 a gallon for regular gas on average Monday as compared with $3.10 a month ago.

On the economic front, manufacturing activity made a surprising jump in February, according to the Chicago Federal Reserve. The Chicago PMI index jumped from 68.8 in January to 71.2 in February, beating economists' expectations that the measure would inch lower to 67.5.

The National Association of Business Economists boosted its estimates for year-over-year domestic growth in 2011 from 2.6% in November to 3.3% in February.

Personal income jumped a more-than-expected 1% in January, according to the Commerce Department.  A large portion of the gain in income can be attributed to government tax programs meant to ease consumers' tax burden amid difficult economic conditions, the report said.

Economists were expecting this gauge of strength in the consumer sector to have increased 0.4% in January. However personal spending only increased 0.2% in January, less than the 0.4% analysts were expecting, possibly indicating consumers are still worried to make purchases.

Consumer discretionary companies such as Best Buy (NYSE:BBY) and Tiffany & Co. (NYSE:TIF) could be affected by consumers' propensity to save or spend money.

Contracts for sales of previously-occupied homes dropped by a more-than-expected 2.8% in January.  Analysts saw the gauge of strength in the housing market falling 2.2% for the month.

In currencies, the euro gained 0.32% on the U.S. dollar, and the greenback was up 0.11% against the Japanese yen.

Metals were largely higher on the day, but bounced back from session highs.  Gold settled up 60 cents to $1,409 per troy ounce. Gold was up $75.50, or 5.66%, for the month of February.

Corporate Movers

3M (NYSE:MMM) was one of Monday's best performers as a report from Barron's saying the manufacturer's earnings would rise 60%, coupled with a ratings boost from Standard and Poor's, gave shares a boost. (NYSE:CRM) shares plummeted 6% Monday, giving back some of the 91% year-over-year gain the contact management company has seen.

JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM) is in talks to acquire a small stake in booming social networking site Twitter, according to a report by the Financial Times.

Humana (NYSE:HUM) was one of the top-performing S&P 500 components after Standard & Poor's boosted the insurer's rating from hold to buy.

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) bucked the downward trend for technology stocks, climbing 1.4%.  The technology-behemoth is widely expected to release the next revision of its popular iPad at a press event on Wednesday.

Berkshire Hathaway chief Warren Buffet wrote in an annual letter to shareholders that the holding company -- which owns firms like reinsurance-giant General Re -- is looking to make "major acquisitions" to add to income the company earns from its current holdings.

Dril-Quip Inc. (NYSE:DRQ) swung to a 28% fourth-quarter loss, with profits of 52 cents per share -- far below analysts' expectations of 71 cents.  Shares of the offshore driller tumbled in trading on Monday.

Blackstone Group (NYSE:BX) -- the world's largest private equity firm -- has reached a deal to purchase Centro Properties Group's portfolio of shopping malls for $9.4 billion, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal.

Foreign Markets 

In Europe, the English FTSE 100 swung lower by 0.12% to 5,994, the French CAC 40 jumped 0.98% to 4,110 and the German DAX increased by 1.21% to 7,272.

Asian markets were mostly higher, the Japanese Nikkei was higher by 0.92% to 10,624 and the Chinese Hang Seng spiked 1.4% to 23,338.