NEW YORK – Stocks edged higher on Wednesday as better-than-expected data on U.S. manufacturing and industrial activity outweighed worries about euro-zone debt sparked by a warning on Spain's credit rating.
Investor concerns over a possible Moody's downgrade of Spain gave way as data showed manufacturing rebounded in New York state this month after falling sharply in November.
U.S. industrial output in November also rose, posting its biggest gain since July, as signs emerged of a firmer end to the year for the world's largest economy.
"We walked in this morning with a potential downgrade by Moody's, which brought back the macro concerns, but what we are seeing here is just an overall positive bias to stocks all the way to the year end," said Kevin Kruszenski, head of listed trading at KeyBanc Capital Markets in Cleveland.
"At this point, most people are thinking they would rather be in stocks than anything else."
The Dow Jones industrial average (.DJI) was up 32.21 points, or 0.28 percent, at 11,508.75. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index (.SPX) was up 1.37 points, or 0.11 percent, at 1,242.96. The Nasdaq Composite Index (.IXIC) was up 6.87 points, or 0.26 percent, at 2,634.59.
Wall Street ended mostly flat on Tuesday on a late-day sell-off after another cautious assessment on the strength of the economy from the U.S. Federal Reserve.
The S&P 500 is up more than 7 percent from a year ago, but bullish sentiment continued to rise among financial advisers surveyed in the weekly Investors' Intelligence poll.
The percentage of financial advisers who are bullish on the stock market rose to 56.8 percent, up from 56.2 percent last week. The percentage of bearish investors fell to 20.5 percent from 21.3 percent last week, according to the poll.
"The current above-55 percent (bullish) reading makes it risky to take on many new positions, with a strong likelihood that the rally is nearing a top," Investors' Intelligence said in a note to clients.
Novartis AG (NOVN.VX) (NVS.N) has wrapped up its long-awaited buyout of the remainder of U.S.-listed Alcon Inc (ACL.N) it didn't own.
U.S-listed shares of Novartis was up 6 percent at $59.18, and Alcon gained 1.8 percent to $165.32.
Investor Carl Icahn said he had agreed to buy power producer Dynegy Inc (DYN.N) for $665 million in cash, just three weeks after a bid by private equity firm Blackstone Group (BX.N) failed to win over Dynegy shareholders. Dynegy shares were up 4.2 percent at $5.68.