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Stocks jump as Apple pulls tech companies up again

U.S. stocks changed course again Thursday and climbed as Apple led a big gain for technology companies and as energy companies recovered some of their recent losses. Investors looked over a series of mixed economic reports as they sought clues about the Federal Reserve's intentions and the health of the economy.

Tech firms made the largest gains as Apple rose for the fourth consecutive day. The company’s stock is up 12% this week on growing optimism about early sales of its newest iPhones.

Energy companies bounced back after two rough days, though the price of oil rose only slightly. Healthcare and phone company stocks also climbed. Bond yields wobbled and finished little changed, a sign that investors aren't sure what will happen with interest rates.

It was the fourth big move for the market in the last five days as investors try to anticipate whether the Fed will raise interest rates next week. Based on weaker producer prices and manufacturing and less spending by shoppers, they appeared to conclude rates will stay where they are for now.

Karyn Cavanaugh, senior market strategist for Voya Investment Strategies, said investors are sending stocks higher because they think the reports will make the Fed less likely to raise rates now. Some investors fear that that a rate increase would hurt the economy.

“They're not going to raise interest rates in September,” she said. “It was kind of a mixed bag, but the bottom line is that the data's not great.”

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 177.71 points, or 1%, to 18,212.48. The Standard & Poor's 500 index climbed 21.49 points, or 1%, to 2,147.26. The Nasdaq composite jumped 75.92 points, or 1.5%, to 5,249.69.

Apple rose to its highest price in 10 months on reports of strong pre-orders for the new iPhones it introduced last week. The stock climbed 3.4% to $115.57. Other technology companies also rose. Microsoft went up 1.7% to $57.19 and Intel advanced 2.6% to $36.56.

Strong gains for technology and healthcare companies have the Nasdaq on pace for its best week since late June.

Benchmark U.S. crude rose 33 cents to $43.91 a barrel in New York. It had fallen almost 6% in the last two days. Brent crude, used to price international oils, advanced 74 cents, or 1.6%, to $46.59 a barrel in London. Among energy stocks, Marathon Petroleum climbed 4.5% to $43.74, and Chevron rose 1.1%, to $99.50.

Investors pored over a slew of economic reports. The Labor Department said producer prices fell in August as gas and food prices declined. Lower producer prices reduce inflation, and the Fed has said it wants to see evidence inflation is edging up before it raises rates. Inflation has remained consistently low in recent years.

Reports by the Commerce Department and the Federal Reserve, respectively, showed that retail sales fell last month and that factory production decreased.

Bond prices wobbled. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note remained at 1.70%.

Aerie Pharmaceuticals surged 44.9% to $30.61 after the Irvine company reported positive results from a late-stage trial of Roclatan, an experimental glaucoma drug.

Shares of Goodyear Tire & Rubber climbed 5.1% to $32.39 after the company boosted its dividend and said it plans to return $4 billion to shareholders over the next few years.

AMC Networks fell 2.8% to $50.53 after Stifel Nicolaus analyst Benjamin Mogil downgraded the company because competition is growing and ratings for its hit “The Walking Dead” may weaken as the show enters its seventh season.

Wells Fargo slipped 0.8% to $46.15. Regulators said last week that the bank opened more than 2 million accounts that customers may not have authorized and transferred money into those accounts without their approval. The company agreed to a $185-million settlement and says it will cut back on aggressive sales targets, but the controversy is damaging its reputation. The stock is mired in a five-day losing streak that has pulled its value down 7.5%.

Gold fell $8.10 to $1,318 an ounce. Silver fell 3 cents to $19.04 an ounce. Copper remained at $2.16 a pound.

Wholesale gasoline jumped 7 cents, or 5%, to $1.43 a gallon. Heating oil rose 3 cents, or 2.5%, to $1.42 a gallon. Natural gas rose 4 cents to $2.93 per 1,000 cubic feet.

The dollar slid to 102.16 yen from 102.42 yen. The euro slipped to $1.1246 from $1.1249.

The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares climbed 0.9%. Germany's DAX rose 0.5% and France’s CAC 40 edged up 0.1%. Tokyo's Nikkei 225 tumbled 1.3% while Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 0.6%.

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UPDATES:

2:30 p.m.: This article was updated with additional information.

1:15 p.m.: This article was updated with the close of markets.

This article was originally published at 7:40 a.m.

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