Wall Street closes higher on PMI

US stocks gain on manufacturing numbers; Walmart result a drag.

United States stocks closed higher driven largely by signs of strength in the manufacturing sector.

Investors also cheered a slight dip in weekly jobless claims, signs of improved M&A activity and restrained inflation.

News the world's largest retailer, Walmart, had failed to meet analysts sales and earnings forecasts was seen dragging stocks lower in early trade, along with yesterday's disappointing manufacturing numbers out of China.

At the closing bell, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 92.67 points, or 0.58%, at 16,133.23.

The broad-based S&P 500 climbed 11.03 points, or 0.60%, to 1,839.78, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index added 29.59 points, or 0.70%, to 4,267.55.

Inflation climbed a meagre 0.1% in January and 1.6% year-on-year, which matched market expectations. The news calmed deflation fears and also suggested inflation was not likely to force the US Federal Reserve to speed up its retreat from economic stimulus in the near-term.

The market was more excited by the early February reading of factory activity in the US, with the purchasing managers' index (PMI) hitting a four-year high. The index rose from 53.7 in January to 56.7 in February.

Elsewhere, weekly jobless claims fell by 3,000 last week, to a seasonally adjusted 336,000.

In company news, Facebook slipped 3% early as investors voted with their feet over its $US19 billion ($A21 billion) takeover of messaging service What'sApp, but its stock was seen up 2.5% in late trade.

While Facebook shares initially retreated, the market took the deal as a further positive sign that M&A activity may be on the rise. Already this year there has been three deals announced worth over $US15 billion.

Meanwhile, Dow member Walmart Stores dropped 1.7% after posting weaker fourth-quarter earnings that fell comfortably short of expectations.

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