Stocks Jump on Signs Economy Is Getting Stronger

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These data points were offsetting an unexpected negative read in the Philadelphia Federal Reserve's Business Outlook survey. Manufacturing activity contracted in the Philadelphia region in January as the Philly Fed's Business Outlook Survey fell to minus 5.8 in January from a sharply downwardly revised 4.6 in December. Economists were expecting a positive read of 5.8 for January.

In earnings news, Bank of America reported fourth-quarter profit of $700 million, or 3 cents a share, beating the average analyst estimate by a penny. Net revenue, however, came in at $18.9 billion, compared with estimates of $21 billion. Shares tumbled 4.2% .

Citigroup, the third-largest bank in the U.S., missed expectations in the fourth quarter , as higher legal expenses and lower reserve releases hurt profit. Shares were off 2.9% on Thursday.

"We do not expect much out of fourth quarter earnings reporting season," commented Scott Wren, senior equity strategist at Wells Fargo Advisors. "Sure, individual company surprises, both good and bad, are going to happen. But overall, looking at companies in the S&P 500, there probably will not be much to get excited about in this modest growth environment that Americans have been living with for the last several years."

Still, Paul Pagnato, founder of HighTower's Pagnato-Karp Group, said "we're slightly bullish this year," pending the resolution of the debt ceiling issue in the U.S.

Getting passed it is "a really, really big thing in the next 45 days. So we are going to be patient in deploying capital to emerging markets, energy, large multi-national corporations and technology until that debt ceiling gets resolved," said Pagnato. "But once the debt ceiling gets resolved, we really think the market will move" as much as 10% this year.

Gold for February delivery rose $7.60 to settle at $1,690.80 an ounce at the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, while February crude oil futures increased $1.25 to close at $95.49.

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The benchmark 10-year Treasury was down 17/32 to raise the yield to 1.886%. The dollar was down 0.18%, according to the U.S. dollar index .

CBS(CBS) shares surged 7.9% after the company said Wednesday that it has started converting its Outdoor Americas division, which runs billboards, into a real estate investment trust. The company will pursue a divestiture of its Outdoor operations in Europe and Asia.

BlackRock(BLK) shares gained 4.4% after the asset management firm booked better-than-anticipated fourth-quarter earnings thanks to robust demand for its exchange-traded funds. The company also announced a 12% hike to its quarterly dividend.

Huntington Bancshares (HBAN) on Thursday announced fourth-quarter earnings that were "essentially unchanged" from the third quarter, but underlying revenue trends were quite positive. Shares rose 4.2%.

Fifth Third Bancorp (FITB) of Cincinnati on Thursday announced another quarter of very strong mortgage revenue growth and solid increases in commercial and industrial loan balances. Shares added 4.8%.