Wall St. closes up as GDP data eases recession worries

STORY: Wall Street ended a choppy session higher on Thursday as investors grappled with an onslaught of economic data and a string of mixed corporate earnings, while eyeing the clock as it ticks down toward next week's Federal Reserve monetary policy meeting.

The Dow gained six-tenths of a percent, the S&P rose 1.1% and the Nasdaq jumped nearly 1.8%.

Anna Rathbun is Chief Investment Officer at CBIZ Investment Advisory Services.

“I think there’s some good economic news on the surface, and that would be namely GDP and durable goods. Those two large data points, I think, have been driving some of the positive sentiment – but they didn’t create the positive sentiment, right? There has been a general upward momentum in the markets that we’ve seen year-to-date, and I think it’s just feeding off of that. And we’ve also seen a lot of intraday buying-dip action happening in the markets as well, and we’re definitely seeing some of that today.”

Data from the Commerce Department showed the U.S. economy fared better in the fourth quarter than analysts expected, growing at an annualized rate of 2.9%.

And new orders for long-lasting, U.S.-made goods - which includes everything from waffle irons to fighter jets - blasted past analyst estimates by jumping 5.6% in December.

But the number of U.S. workers filing first-time applications for unemployment fell short of what analysts expected, reflecting a still-tight labor market – with many investors expecting a 25 basis point rate hike from the central bank on Wednesday.

Tesla provided one of the biggest boosts to the S&P - its shares jumping after reporting that aggressive price cuts have ignited demand.

And Shares of BuzzFeed extended gains to more than double in value on Thursday on reports the digital media firm was planning to use artificial intelligence to personalize and enhance its online quizzes and content.

Among the losers, IBM fell in the wake of its announcement that it would cut jobs and divest some assets after falling short of its annual cash target.

And Southwest Airlines slid after warning of current quarter losses in the wake of a tech meltdown that forced it to cancel thousands of flights over the holiday season.