By STEVE ROTHWELLAP Market Writer
NEW YORK (AP) - Encouraging news about the U.S. economy helped push stock prices higher in early trading on Wall Street Friday.
A gauge of future economic activity rose more than analysts had expected, as did a measure of consumer confidence. Stocks have surged to record levels this year, bolstered by optimism about that the housing market is recovering and hiring is picking up. The market has also been supported by ongoing stimulus from the Federal Reserve.
The Conference Board reported that its index of leading economic indicators rose 0.6 percent last month after a decline of 0.1 percent in March. The index is intended to predict how the economy will be doing in three to six months.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 60 points, or 0.4 percent, to 15,294 as of 10:13 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time. The index is 1.2 percent higher for the week.
The Standard & Poor's 500 index climbed nine points, or 0.6 percent, to 1,659. The index is up 1.6 percent up for the week.
Gold fell for a seventh straight day, dropping $20, or 1.5 percent, to $1,366 an ounce. The precious metal is down 18 percent this year and has fallen out of favor as an alternative investment as the stock market has rallied this year. The price of oil rose 70 cents, or 0.7 percent, to $95.86 a barrel.
In government bond trading, The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 1.92 percent from 1.88 percent Thursday.
Among stocks making big moves;
- Northrop Grumman rose $2.93, or 3.7 percent, to $50.13 after the defense contractor said its board approved the repurchase of another $4 billion in stock, and that it plans to buy back a quarter of its outstanding shares by the end of 2015.
- J.C. Penney fell 46 cents, or 2.4 percent, 34 percent, to $18.34 after the retailer reported a loss that was worse than analysts' already dismal estimates. The retailer is reeling from the fallout from turnaround plan orchestrated by its former CEO Ron Johnson, who was ousted last month after less than a year and a half on the job.
- Aruba Networks fell $4.8, or 27 percent, to $12.9 reporting a fiscal third-quarter loss. The company said it was cautious about trends in technology spending.
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