Investing.com - U.S. stocks climbed higher on Thursday after Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen suggested harsh winter weather may have been the reason behind a string of disappointing economic indicators this year.
At the close of U.S. trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.46%, the S&P 500 index rose 0.49%, while the Nasdaq Composite index rose 0.63%.
Recent manufacturing, unemployment and other economic indicators have come in short of Wall Street expectations, leaving investors unclear if recovery has hit a soft patch or if a string of winter storms has put commerce temporarily on hold.
Speaking before the Senate banking committee, Yellen told lawmakers it was hard to say how much the recent soft data was due to rough winter weather and added that the bank would remain attentive to signals on whether the recovery is progressing in line with expectations.
Stock market investors concluded that monetary authorities do believe winter storms have bruised economic indicators somewhat, and that when spring arrives in a matter of weeks, recovery will pick up and improve corporate fundamentals in the process.
Elsewhere, the Labor Department said the number of people filing for initial jobless benefits rose by 14,000 to 348,000 from the previous week's total of 334,000. Analysts had expected an increase of just 1,000.
Also on Thursday, the Commerce Department reported that U.S. durable goods orders declined by a seasonally adjusted 1% last month, less than expectations for a 1.5% drop.
Core durable goods orders, excluding volatile transportation items, rose 1.1% in January, the largest increase since May, confounding forecasts for a 0.3% decline.
Leading Dow Jones Industrial Average performers included Verizon, up 2.51%, Goldman Sachs, up 1.48%, and Boeing, up 1.44%.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average's worst performers included McDonald's, down 0.86%, Nike, down 0.52%, and Caterpillar, down 0.51%.
European indices, meanwhile, finished largely lower.
After the close of European trade, the EURO STOXX 50 fell 0.28%, France's CAC 40 fell 0.01%, while Germany's DAX 30 fell 0.76%. Meanwhile, in the U.K. the FTSE 100 rose 0.16%.
On Friday, the U.S. is to released revised data on fourth-quarter growth, a report on manufacturing activity in the Chicago region, revised data on consumer sentiment and private-sector data on pending home sales.
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