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Reuters

Wall Street advances as industrial production discounted

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange February 12, 2014. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
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By Chuck Mikolajczak

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stocks rose modestly on Friday, with the S&P 500 on track for its first two-week winning streak of the year, as investors were once again willing to overlook some soft economic data stemming from bad weather.

U.S. export prices rose 0.2 percent in January, the third straight monthly increase in a potentially positive sign for global economic demand and the outlook for American manufacturers.

In the latest data point affected by harsh winter weather, factory production fell 0.8 percent in January, the biggest drop in more than 4-1/2 years. Investors have been willing to forgive soft data of late, attributing weak results to bad weather as opposed to a slowing economy.

"Industrial production was down. That was a big miss yet the market seems to be immune to it," said Andre Bakhos, managing director at Janlyn Capital LLC in Bernardsville, New Jersey.

"The fact the market has not been adversely affected by the weaker numbers, any of the recent numbers that have fallen short, the smart market money believes it is in fact the weather and the economy has not fallen off the tracks here."

Despite difficult weather, the preliminary reading of the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan overall index of consumer sentiment stood at 81.2 in February, unchanged from the final January reading.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> rose 60.89 points or 0.38 percent, to 16,088.48, the S&P 500 <.SPX> gained 5.6 points or 0.31 percent, to 1,835.43 and the Nasdaq Composite <.IXIC> added 3.226 points or 0.08 percent, to 4,243.897.

Volume is expected to be muted on Friday after the snowstorm that blanketed the U.S. East Coast on Thursday and ahead of the Presidents Day holiday on Monday, when markets will be closed.

Men's clothing retailer Jos. A. Bank Clothiers Inc said it would buy outdoor wear specialist Eddie Bauer for $825 million from private equity firm Golden Gate Capital, spurning any merger considerations with rival Men's Wearhouse Inc . Jos. A. Bank shares lost 1.9 percent to $53.85 while Men's Wearhouse slumped 7.3 percent to $43.14.

Insurer American International Group on Thursday raised its dividend and announced more share buybacks as its fourth-quarter earnings beat expectations. Its shares lost 2.4 percent to $48.40.

Weight Watchers International Inc plunged 25.9 percent to $22.65 after it forecast a full-year adjusted profit far slimmer than estimates.

Cliffs Natural Resources rose 7 percent to $23.42 as the best performer on the S&P 500, after reporting a much better-than-expected earnings helped by a drop in costs and higher iron ore prices.

GNC Holdings Inc tumbled 12.2 percent to $45.99. The health supplements retailer posted weaker-than-expected quarterly results.

VF Corp declined 5.8 percent to $56.44 after the apparel company reported fourth-quarter earnings and issued its 2014 outlook.

LCA-Vision Inc jumped 25.7 percent to $5.34 after the laser vision correction services company agreed to be acquired by skin health company PhotoMedex Inc for about $106 million. PhotoMedex shares edged up 0.5 percent to $13.89.

(Editing by Bernadette Baum and Nick Zieminski)

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