Stocks Gain on Upbeat Manufacturing Data; Facebook Pops on WhatsApp Deal

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NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- U.S. stocks gained Thursday as U.S. manufacturing data improved in February.
  • The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up 0.58% to 16,133.23, while the S&P 500 was 0.6% higher at 1,839.78. The Nasdaq gained 0.7% to 4,267.54.
  • The Markit Economics preliminary index of U.S. manufacturing rose to 56.7 in February from 53.7 last month. This beat expectations for a result of 53.6. A level lower than 50 points to contraction. Regional results varied: the February Philadelphia Fed Index notched a fall in manufacturing conditions from 9.4 in January to -6.3 in February.
  • Jobless claims for the week of Feb. 15 fell 3,000 to 336,000 vs. an estimate of 335,000. The Consumer Price Index for January, released Thursday, increased by an as-expected 0.1%.
  • The flash Markit/HSBC Purchasing Managers' Index for China sank to a seven-month low of 48.3 in February from  49.5 in January. This further fueled fears of a slowdown in the world's largest emerging economy.
  • In stock news, Facebook  has also agreed to buy messaging company WhatsApp for $19 billion in cash and stock. Facebook shares increased 2.3% to $69.63, reversing early-morning losses. Blackberry  shares also gained on news of the deal, up 3.8% to $9.35 amid speculation its messaging platform has been undervalued.
  • Tesla Motors  jumped 8.4% after forecasting sales of its Model S sedan would rise 56% this yearQuanta Services  added 7.6% to $34.54 after announcing record revenue of $1.82 billion for the fourth quarter. 
  • Walmart was the leading laggard in the Dow, falling 1.8% to $73.52 after providing a worse-than-expected full-year outlook. The company posted fourth-quarter revenue of $129.7 billion vs. expectations of $130.23 billion.
  • In M&A news, Finland's Nokia  is considering buying Juniper Networks . Reports suggested Nokia would need to offer a premium to Juniper's market value of about $14 billion. Juniper shares rose 0.77% to $27.41.
  • In other stock news, Quanta Services  was the top performer in the S&P 500 after the company increased its outlook for first-quarter adjusted earnings per share to $1.85 to $2.05, which was stronger than Wall Street's expectation of $1.85. Shares popped 7.6% to $34.55. DirecTV advanced 2.9% to $75.08 after announcing a $3.5 billion stock repurchase program and reporting fourth-quarter results that topped expectations.  
  • The FTSE in the U.K. closed up 0.24% and the DAX in Germany was 0.43% lower. The Hong Kong Hang Seng closed down 1.19% and Japan's Nikkei 225 finished off 2.15%.
-- Written by Jane Searle and Joe Deaux in New York