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US Stocks Jump as Worries Over Crimea Vote Fade

by Ken Sweet
Tuesday Mar 18, 2014

Stocks rose sharply Monday as investors brushed aside the ongoing political turmoil in Ukraine and focused on a surge in output at U.S. factories last month.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average rose 183 points, or 1.1 percent, to 16,249 as of 2:45 p.m. Eastern time. It jumped as much as 204 points earlier. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 19 points, or 1.1 percent, to 1,860 and the Nasdaq composite added 43 points, or 1 percent, to 4,288.

TECH SURGE: Technology stocks were among the biggest gainers, led by Yahoo, which rose 4.3 percent. Yahoo owns a quarter of the Chinese e-commerce website AliBaba, which announced plans to go public in the U.S. While relatively unknown in the U.S., AliBaba is one of the world's most-trafficked websites in the world's second-largest economy. Other tech stocks also rose including Microsoft, Google and Amazon.

FACTORIES DEFROST: The Federal Reserve said U.S. factory output rebounded in February after harsh winter storms caused a steep drop-off in production in January. Manufacturers produced more autos, home electronics and chemicals. The 0.6 percent rise was triple the increase that economists had expected.

"It's another small piece of evidence that the economy is beginning to thaw from the winter," said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank, which oversees $66 billion in assets.

UKRAINE WORRIES FADE: The vote in the Ukrainian region of Crimea to join Russia had been widely expected. Worries that the Crimea issue might prompt an escalation in tensions between Russia and Western powers have unsettled financial markets over the past few weeks. In the run-up to Sunday's referendum, stock markets around the world hit multi-week lows while safe-haven investments such as the Japanese yen and gold rose.

"Russia got what it wanted without having to take Crimea by force," said Sam Stovall, chief equity strategist with S&P Capital IQ.

SANCTIONS: Both the White House and the European Union announced sanctions and visa restrictions against several Russian officials as a result of the referendum. The U.S. imposed sanctions on seven Russian government officials as well as four Ukrainians, including former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. The EU slapped travel bans and asset freezes on 21 people from Russia and Crimea.

LATER THIS WEEK: The Federal Reserve will hold a two-day policy meeting starting Tuesday. Investors expect the central bank to pull back further on its bond-buying economic stimulus program, as it has done for the last two meetings.

SEARS SPLIT: Sears Holdings rose $1.30, or 3 percent, to $45.31 after announcing that it planned to split off its Land's End business.

HERTZ SPIN-OFF? Rental car company Hertz Global rose $1.41, or 5 percent, to $27.40 on reports that the company was looking to sell its construction equipment rental business.

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