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    02.03.2016 21:15 U.S. stocks closed

    U.S. stocks advanced, extending their eight-week highs with banks and energy shares rallying for a second day as improving data bolstered optimism on the economy.

    A report today showed companies in the U.S. added more workers than forecast to their payrolls, another positive signal on the economy after gauges showing stability at American factories, major carmakers and in the public and private construction industries helped spur a rally yesterday. The improving data has also raised the odds the Federal Reserve will boost borrowing costs this year.

    The S&P 500 has trimmed its 2016 decline to less than 3 percent, from more than 10 percent, amid a recovery from a 22-month low on Feb. 11. The benchmark is down 6.8 percent from an all-time high reached last May.

    In Tuesday's votes, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton solidified their positions in the race to their parties' presidential nominations. The impact on trading was muddied as global equities rebounded on the U.S. economic data and amid stability in China markets that spurred risk-taking.

    The eighth year of a presidency typically ranks last in terms of equity returns, and the first half of an election year is often even worse. Add everything else that has been weighing on markets in 2016, from China to oil and the Fed, and few money managers see a return to the relative calm that reigned from 2012 to 2015.

    A Fed report today showed the U.S. economy continued to expand across most of the country, while wage growth was described as varying widely, "from flat to strong." Seven of the Fed's 12 regional districts characterized the economy as growing "moderately," at a "modest pace" or "slightly," according to the central bank's Beige Book, an economic survey published eight times a year.

    Separately, San Francisco Fed President John Williams said today domestic demand is overwhelming weakness from abroad, and inflation should move back to the central bank's 2 percent target over the next two years. Traders have raised the odds for rate increases this year, pricing in a 38 percent probability for a June boost in borrowing costs, up from about 26 percent a week ago. Chances for a December move have increased to 66 percent from 42 percent last Wednesday.

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