US STOCKS-Energy shares, data lift Wall Street

* Chevron leads energy sector up after upbeat outlook

* Inventories rise more than expected in February

* Dow up 0.3 pct, S&P up 0.3 pct, Nasdaq up 0.4 pct
(Updates to afternoon)

By Rodrigo Campos

NEW YORK, April 9 (BestGrowthStock) – Energy shares drove U.S.
stocks higher on Friday as an upbeat outlook from Chevron Corp
gave a boost to the sector and U.S. wholesale inventories data
supported bets on an improving economy.

The S&P energy sector (.GSPE: ), up 1 percent, led the
market’s advance, with Chevron (CVX.N: ) up 2 percent at $79.21 a
day after it said its refining and marketing arm would return
to profit in the first quarter, while earnings from oil and gas
production would grow. For details, see [ID:nN08222069].

ConocoPhillips (COP.N: ) and Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N: ) both
rose more than 1.4 percent.

Data showed U.S. wholesale inventories rose more than
expected in February and sales at wholesalers reached their
highest level in 16 months, brightening prospects for
first-quarter economic and earnings growth. [ID:nN09141748].

“Seems like energy shares are catching up with oil’s
(recent) rise above $85 per barrel. News on Chevron having a
positive outlook is lending some support,” said Alan Gayle,
senior investment strategist at RidgeWorth Investments in
Richmond, Virginia.

The inventory data “suggests businesses are still in the
process of normalizing output levels, which could set the stage
for some reasonable earnings,” he said.

The Dow Jones industrial average (.DJI: ) gained 31.97
points, or 0.29 percent, to 10,959.04. The Standard & Poor’s
500 Index (.SPX: ) added 3.52 points, or 0.30 percent, to
1,189.96. The Nasdaq Composite Index (.IXIC: ) rose 8.58 points,
or 0.35 percent, to 2,445.39.

The three major U.S. stock indexes were on track for a
sixth straight week of gains — a positive run not seen since
stocks rebounded from more than 12-year lows in March 2009.

Also boosting the energy sector, Atlas Energy (ATLS.O: )
shares jumped nearly 17 percent to $37.09 after Indian energy
company Reliance Industries (RELI.BO: ) agreed to pay $1.7
billion for a stake in an Atlas’ shale project to provide
natural gas. [ID:nSGE6380G2].

Shares of J.C. Penney Co Inc (JCP.N: ), the big U.S.
department store operator, rose 1.7 percent to $31.50 after
Goldman Sachs added the stock to a list of recommended buys.

Palm Inc (PALM.O: ) shares surged 11 percent to $5.16,
capping a volatile week in which the smart phone maker’s stock
has seesawed on options market chatter and takeover rumors.
[ID:nN09252780].

Worries about Greece’s debt problems, which have weighed on
stocks for weeks, eased after a European Union source said
policymakers had reached an agreement on terms of possible
emergency loans for Athens. The U.S. dollar index (Read more about the global trade. ) (.DXY: )
slipped 0.6 percent, while the euro rose nearly 1 percent.
Earlier, stocks pared gains on news that Fitch downgraded
Greece’s debt rating. [ID:nBFA001145].

Stock Analysis

(Reporting by Rodrigo Campos; Editing by Kenneth Barry)

US STOCKS-Energy shares, data lift Wall Street