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At the close: Dow zooms past 14,000, nearing all-time high

U.S. stocks sprinted to fresh five-year highs Friday, with the Dow Jones industrial average surpassing the psychologically important 14,000 level as it closed in on an all-time record.

Toronto's stock market also saw strong gains, but fell short of erasing Thursday's 109-point loss. Research In Motion Ltd., which lost nearly 20 per cent since unveiling its BlackBerry 10 devices, ended up a very modest 0.7 per cent, at $13.01 a share, unable to cling to more notable gains early in the trading session.

The Dow closed up 149 points, or 1 per cent, at 14,009. It is now just 155 points away from its highest level ever. The S&P 500 rose 15 points, or 1 per cent, at 1,513. The S&P/TSX composite index gained 83 points, or 0.6 per cent, at 12,768.

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Investors today were in an upbeat mood after data from across the globe showed more promising signs that economies were on the mend. The fourth-quarter earnings season has also been providing validation of January's big stock market gains. So far, just over 63 per cent of U.S. companies have beaten earnings expectations, according to Bespoke Investment Group. Even more impressively, nearly 62 per cent beat revenue forecasts - a big pick-up from third-quarter results.

U.S. employers added 157,000 jobs to payrolls last month, new data showed today. That was just shy of the average forecast by economists, but the data also showed that the economy added about one-third of a million more jobs in 2012 than previously estimated.

And a number of other U.S. reports supported the view that the economy is on a sustainable uptrend. U.S construction spending rose 0.9 per cent in December. The Institute for Supply Management's index rose to 53.1 per cent in January -- its highest level since April -- from 50.2 per cent in December. And a U.S. consumer sentiment index in January rose to 73.8 from 72.9 in December.

The rally got started overnight, with the Shanghai stock exchange jumping 1.4 per cent after two separate surveys showed improvement in China's manufacturing sector. China's Purchasing Managers' Index came in at 50.4 for January, signifying expansion but down slightly from 50.6 in December. More upbeat was HSBC's final PMI index reading of 52.3, which rose from the previous month's 51.5 retreat.

Similar purchasing managers' data were released in Europe this morning that indicated the region's manufacturing sector contracted at the slowest pace in nearly a year. Benign inflation data also came out of Europe, suggesting the European Central Bank should have enough room to cut interest rates again if needs to further stimulate the economy.

The TSX's gains were led by the industrials and materials sector, both gaining more than 1 per cent, finding support from a rally in industiral metals such as copper, which rose 1.2 per cent.

Among the notable movers in Toronto was Brookfield Office Properties, which reported a rise in its fourth-quarter income and painted an upbeat view of the real estate sector. Its shares rose just over 6 per cent.

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In the U.S., energy giant Exxon Mobil Corp. shares edged up 0.08 per cent after reporting its fourth-quarter profit rose to a five-year high, beating analyst expectations.

And Google shares closed up 2.6 per cent at $775.60, an all-time high.

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