(By Balachander) U.S. stocks ended sharply higher as strong business confidence data from Germany and upbeat results and guidance from Hewlett-Packard Co. buoyed sentiment.
The S&P 500 Index rose 0.88 percent to end at 1,515.60. The Dow Jones advanced 0.86 percent to finish at 14,000.57. The Nasdaq Composite Index gained 0.97 percent to close at 3,161.82.
German business confidence increased more than forecast and reached a 10-month high in February, a data showed. The headline business climate index rose to 107.4 from a revised 104.3 last month, the Ifo Institute reported. Economists expected a reading of 104.9.
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Italy goes to polls on Sunday amid concern a new government will jeopardize the nation's austerity program.
There were no major U.S. economic data scheduled for the day.
Hot Stocks Of The Day: HPQ, AIG, TXN, NDSN, MRVL, ANF, ARUN, FSLR, WBMD
Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) jumped 12.28 percent after the world's largest seller of personal computers, posted better-than-expected earnings and revenue for the first quarter and offered an upbeat forecast. UBS upgraded the stock to "Neutral" from "Sell".
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American International Group Inc. (NYSE: AIG) added 3.14 percent after the insurer reported better-than-expected quarterly numbers. New York-based AIG posted a fourth-quarter loss due to claims from Hurricane Sandy.
Texas Instruments Inc. (NASDAQ: TXN) rose 5.23 percent after the semiconductor maker boosted its quarterly dividend by 33 percent to 28 cents a share, and raised its share buyback authorization by $5 billion.
Marvell Technology Group Ltd. (NASDAQ: MRVL) added 4.44 percent after the chip maker posted quarterly earnings that topped market expectations.
Nordson Corp. (NASDAQ: NDSN) fell 7.06 percent after the maker of adhesive dispensing systems issued second-quarter earnings forecast that trailed Wall Street expectations.
Abercrombie & Fitch Co. (NYSE: ANF) fell 4.46 percent after the specialty retailer forecast a first-quarter loss after posting quarterly revenue slightly below consensus.
Aruba Networks Inc. (NASDAQ: ARUN) surged 22.13 percent after the maker of WiFi equipment posted a profit for the second quarter amid stronger-than-expected revenue growth.
First Solar Inc. (NASDAQ: FSLR) shed 1.74 percent after Pacific Crest downgraded shares of the maker of solar modules to "Underperform" from "Sector Perform".
WebMD Health Corp. (NASDAQ: WBMD) surged 25.40 percent after the provider of health information services guided 2013 revenue above market expectations.
European markets closed sharply higher, with Germany's DAX up 1.03 percent to close at 7,661.91. France's CAC40 rose 2.25 percent to finish at 3,706.28. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 gained 0.70 percent to end at 6,335.70.
Asian markets ended mixed. The Shanghai Composite Index retreated 0.51 percent to end at $2,314.16. Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 0.68 percent to end at 11,385.94. Hong Kong's Hang Seng lost 0.54 percent to close at 22,782.44. India's Sensex closed at 19,317.01, down 0.04 percent.
Commodity & Currency Scan
Crude oil futures rose 0.52 percent to $93.32 per barrel, and natural gas futures added 1.17 percent to $3.29 per million metric British thermal units. Gold futures shed 0.03 percent to $1,578.50 per ounce and silver futures fell 0.09 percent to $28.69 per ounce.
In the currency market, the euro lost 0.03 percent against the U.S. dollar at 1.3186. The British pound declined 0.07 percent against the greenback to 1.5244, while the dollar rose 0.34 percent against the Japanese yen at 93.4300.