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Recovery optimism drives stocks higher

US stocks climbed on Friday, pushing the S&P 500 to a fresh five-year high and putting the Nasdaq within a hair of a 12-year intraday high, following a batch of encouraging domestic and international economic reports.

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 40.94 points, or 0.3 per cent, at 13,984.99. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 7.72 points, or 0.5 per cent, at 1517.11. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 27.94 points, or 0.9 per cent, at 3193.08. The Nasdaq was just 3 points shy of its highest level since November 2000.

Meanwhile, SPI futures fell 9 points to 4926, pointing to a subdued opening of the local sharemarket on Monday. The Australian dollar inched higher in offshore trade to $US1.0319.

Data showing stronger international trade in China and Germany, and a report indicating the US trade deficit had narrowed in December, pointed to improving global demand.

"That may have sent a ray of optimism," said Fred Dickson, chief market strategist at D.A. Davidson & Co in Lake Oswego, Oregon.

The technology sector led the day's gains, with the S&P 500 technology index up 1 per cent. Gains in LinkedIn and AOL following their quarterly results helped the sector.


The benchmark S&P 500, up more than 6 per cent for the year, is on track for six straight weeks of gains for the first time since August 2012.

But an advance has been tougher in recent days as investors await strong trading incentives to drive the index further upward.

"I think we're in the middle of a trading range and I'd put plus or minus 5 per cent around it. Fundamental factors are best described as neutral," Dickson said.

Shares of LinkedIn jumped 21.1 per cent to $US150.31 after announcing quarterly profits and giving a bullish forecast for the year.

AOL shares rose 7.5 per cent to $US33.77 after the online company reported higher quarterly profit, boosted by a 13 per cent rise in advertising sales.

The CBOE Volatility index, Wall Street's so-called fear gauge, was down 4.2 per cent at 12.94. The gauge, a key measure of market expectations of short-term volatility, generally moves inversely to the S&P 500.

"I'm watching the 14 level closely" on the CBOE Volatility index, said Bryan Sapp, senior trading analyst at Schaeffer's Investment Research. "The break below it at the beginning of the year signalled the sharp rally in January, and a rally back above it could be a sign to exercise some caution."

Data showed Chinese exports grew more than expected in January, while imports climbed 28.8 per cent, highlighting robust domestic demand, while German data showed a 2012 surplus that was the nation's second highest in more than 60 years, an indication of the underlying strength of Europe's biggest economy.

Separately, US economic data showed the trade deficit shrank in December to $US38.5 billion, its narrowest in nearly three years, indicating the economy did much better in the fourth quarter than initially estimated.