Hot Start to February: Strong Data Fling Wall Street Higher

FOX Business: The Power to Prosper

Wall Street tacked on solid gains on the first trading day of the month after a round of solid economic reports from across the globe whetted traders' appetite for risky assets.

Today's Markets

The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 83.6 points, or 0.66%, to 12716, the S&P 500 rallied 11.7 points, or 0.89%, to 1324 and the Nasdaq Composite rose 34.4 points, or 1.2%, to 2848.

The rally was quite broad on the day. In fact, 33 companies listed on the broad S&P 500 hit 52-week highs, according to data compiled by FOX Business.

Big financial names like Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS), American International Group (NYSE:AIG) and Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) posted some of the sharpest gains. Industrials like United Technologies (NYSE:UTX) and Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT) were strong performers as well.

Economic data came squarely into focus.

The manufacturing sector expanded at a quicker pace in January than it did in December, according to a report from the Institute for Supply Management. ISM's gauge hit 54.1 for the month from 53.1 in December, falling slightly short of estimates of 54.5.

U.S. construction spending, meanwhile, jumped 1.5% in December from November, easily beating forecasts of a 0.6% gain.

The private sector added 170,000 jobs last month, according to a report from payroll-processing firm ADP. Economists had been expecting an increase of 185,000. The December figures were revised down to 292,000 private sector jobs added from an initially reported 325,000.

The data come ahead of the closely-watched monthly employment report from the Labor Department on Friday. The jobs market has slowly recovered from the recession, when the unemployment rate peaked at 10% in October 2009. The jobless rate fell to 8.5% in the final month of 2011.

China, the world's second biggest economy, said its manufacturing sector expanded slightly in January, notching a quicker pace than in December, and topping forecasts for a very slight contraction. The report helped ease concerns that the country is in for an abrupt slowdown that could send shockwaves through the global economy.

In Europe, Germany, the continent's economic powerhouse, and the U.K. both saw their manufacturing sectors pick up steam as well, according to data from Markit. The acceleration in Germany, however, failed to catalyze growth in the 17-member eurozone, which saw a contraction in manufacturing for the sixth-straight month, the data show.

"Overall, today's data confirmed the message in the flash reports that the manufacturing sector in the euro area [stabilized] in January," analysts at Nomura wrote in a note to clients.

European blue chips soared 2.2% and the euro gained 0.39% to $1.3135. Meanwhile, the greenback fell 0.3% against a basket of six world currencies tracked by the dollar index.

Automakers reported their monthly sales on the day. Chrysler posted a 44% jump in monthly sales, and also revealed it swung to a $183 million profit for 2011, compared with a $625 million loss the year prior. This was the first year the smallest of Detroit's "big three" automobile companies profited since going bankrupt and receiving a government bailout in 2009.

Ford (NYSE:F) said its sales climbed by 7% in January, while General Motors' (NYSE:GM) sales fell 6%.

Commodities markets were mixed. The benchmark crude oil contract traded in New York slipped 88 cents, or 0.88%, to $97.61 a barrel. Wholesale RBOB gasoline gained 0.04% to $2.892 a gallon.

In metals, gold rose $9.10, or 0.52%, to $1,750 a troy ounce.

Foreign Markets

European blue chips rallied 2.2%, the English FTSE 100 jumped 1.9% to 5,791 and the German DAX soared 2.4% to 6,617.

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 edged 0.08% higher to 8,810 and the Chinese Hang Seng slipped 0.28% to 20,333.