Stocks rebound as investors eye positive economic data, ignore negative

Investors shrugged off a mixed bag of economic reports to push stocks higher, sending the S&P within just 11 points of an all-time high and the Russell 2000 more than 1% higher.

The Philly Fed's February index of manufacturing activity was negative for the first time in nine months, but investors chalked up the weakness to bad weather and chose to focus on the Markit survey which said manufacturing showed the strongest monthly improvement since May 2010.

Defensive sectors such as telecoms led the rally, with Verizon rising 3.4% after Jefferies analysts said investors should take advantage of recent weakness in the stock; tech stocks trailed the broader market, as Apple was downgraded by Barclays, which said "it is time to step aside."

Treasury prices fell as as investors opted for riskier assets; the benchmark 10-year yield rose 1.5 bps to ~2.75%.

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