(By Balachander) U.S. stocks ended on a positive note as investors weighed better-than-expected trade data from China and comments from European Central Bank President Mario Draghi.
The S&P 500 Index rose 0.76 percent to end at 1,472.11. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 0.60 percent to finish at 13,471.22. The Nasdaq Composite Index gained 0.51 percent to close at 3,121.76.
China's trade surplus jumped to $31.6 billion in December from $19.6 billion in November as exports rose 14.1 percent, a report showed. Economists expected trade surplus to remain unchanged and a 5.0 percent increase in exports.
Meanwhile, the ECB kept the key interest rate at a record-low of 0.75 percent. Draghi said economic weakness in the euro area will continue into 2013 but economic activity should gradually recover later this year.
On the domestic economic front, the number of Americans who continued to receive jobless benefits unexpectedly rose last week, a government data showed. Jobless claims rose 4,000 to 371,000 for the week ended Jan. 5 from a revised 367,000, while economists projected 365,000 applications.
U.S. earnings gathers steam with mortgage lender Wells Fargo & Co. (NYSE: WFC) due to post its quarterly numbers on Friday followed by other major banks next week.
Hot Stocks Of The Day: F, NOK, TIF, ASNA, URBN, SVU, RT, MSM, VOXX, ZLC
Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) added 2.67 percent after the auto giant doubled its quarterly dividend to 10 cents a share. The first-quarter dividend is payable on March 1, 2013, to shareholders of record on Jan. 30, 2013.
Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) spiked 18.67 percent after the cell phone maker said its Devices & Services segment has exceeded expectations and achieved underlying profitability in the fourth quarter.
Tiffany & Co. (NYSE: TIF) fell 4.52 percent after the jeweler forecast full-year profit at the lower-end of its guidance, saying holiday period sales growth was at the low-end of its expectations.
Ascena Retail Group Inc. (NASDAQ: ASNA) plunged 6.95 percent after the company slashed its earnings guidance for fiscal 2013 due to lower than planned holiday sales.
Urban Outfitters Inc. (NASDAQ: URBN) gained 4.64 percent after lifestyle specialty retailer announced a 15 percent jump in holiday sales spurred by strength in all brands.
MSC Industrial Direct Co Inc. (NYSE: MSM) lost 4.35 percent after the company guided second-quarter below consensus citing soft demand environment and the lack of a mid-year price adjustment.
Supervalu Inc. (NYSE: SVU) soared 14.14 percent after the food stores operator agreed to sell its five retail grocery banners to Cerberus-led investor group for $3.3 billion and the company named Sam Duncan as its CEO.
Ruby Tuesday Inc. (NYSE: RT) retreated 5.78 percent after the operator of casual dining restaurants posted a wider quarterly loss due to lower revenue as well as higher costs and expenses. Loss was wider than Wall Street expectations.
VOXX International Corp. (NASDAQ: VOXX) surged 18.26 percent after the distributor of electronics products posted third-quarter results that topped Wall Street expectations.
Zale Corp. (NYSE: ZLC) jumped 11.69 percent after the jewelry retailer said holiday sales rose 2.3 percent and the jewelry retailer still forecasts positive net income for fiscal 2013.
European markets closed mixed, with Germany's DAX down 0.16 percent to close at 7,708.47. France's CAC40 fell 0.39 percent to finish at 3,703.12. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 inched up 0.05 percent to end at 6,101.51.
Among Asian markets, China's Shanghai Stock Exchange Composite Index advanced 0.37 percent to close at 2,283.66. Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 0.70 percent to finish at 10,652.64. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index added 0.59 percent to end at 23,354.31. India's BSE Sensex ended at 19,663.55, down 0.02 percent.
Commodity & Currency Scan
Crude oil futures gained 0.88 percent to $93.92 per barrel, and natural gas futures jumped 2.51 percent to $3.19 per million metric British thermal units. Gold futures rose 1.11 percent to $1,673.70 per ounce and silver futures added 1.90 percent to $30.83 per ounce.
In the currency market, the euro jumped 1.44 percent against the U.S. dollar to 1.3252. The British pound rose 0.78 percent against the greenback to 1.6148, and the dollar gained 0.47 percent against the Japanese yen to 88.2900.