Modest rise gives stocks a third straight week of gains

Stocks closed modestly higher Friday, giving the market its third straight week of gains.

Consumer staples and health care stocks were among the biggest risers as investors assessed the latest company earnings and economic news.

After several weeks speculating about the implications of a slowdown in China and the timing of an interest rate increase by the Federal Reserve, traders are squarely tuned into company earnings as they hunt for insight into how the global economy is doing.

“That’s what the market is focused on,” said Quincy Krosby, a market strategist at Prudential Financial. “Are we seeing a pickup in demand overseas and in the United States, and if so, which sectors? That’s what this is about.”

General Electric rose 3 percent, the most in the Dow Jones industrial average, after the industrial conglomerate reported earnings that beat analysts’ forecasts.

The Dow rose 74.22, or 0.4 percent, to 17,215.97. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 9.25, or 0.5 percent, to 2,033.11. The Nasdaq rose 16.59, or 0.3 percent, to 4,886.69.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq is up 3.2 percent this year. The Dow and S&P 500 are still negative. The Dow is down 3.4 percent, while the S&P 500 is off 1.3 percent.

Investors appeared to brush off some discouraging economic data, including a Federal Reserve report indicating that U.S. manufacturing production fell for the second straight month in September.

A separate Labor Department report showed that employers advertised fewer job openings in August and kept hiring flat. The job market has weakened the past two months, reflecting slower global economic growth.

All told, nine of the 10 sectors in the S&P 500 rose. Health care and consumer staples stocks each gained about 1 percent. The industrials sector declined 0.2 percent.

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