* Major indexes on track for 2nd straight week of gains
* Export prices rise for third straight month
* Jos. A. Bank to buy Eddie Bauer
NEW YORK, Feb 14 (Reuters) – U.S. stocks mostly rose on Friday, with major indexes on track for their second straight week of gains as investors were once again willing to overlook some soft economic data stemming from bad weather.
U.S. export prices rose 0.2 percent in January, the third straight monthly increase in a potentially positive sign for global economic demand and the outlook for American manufacturers.
In the latest data point affected by harsh winter weather, factory production fell 0.8 percent in January, the biggest drop in more than 4-1/2 years. Investors have been willing to forgive soft data of late, attributing weak results to bad weather as opposed to a slowing economy.
“This is not normal weather – a hurricane that came and went and only impacted part of the country. We’ve had severe poundings that have hit half the country, so there’s no question that will adversely affect the data,” said Adam Sarhan, chief executive of Sarhan Capital in New York.
Despite difficult weather, the preliminary reading of the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan overall index of consumer sentiment stood at 81.2 in February, unchanged from the final January reading.
“Valuations still aren’t stretched to the upside, which is bullish for stocks, and centralbanks are continuing to flood the market with easy money, which has been the main driver of gains,” Sarhan said.
The Dow Jones industrial average was up 82.90 points, or 0.52 percent, at 16,110.49. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index was up 5.50 points, or 0.30 percent, at 1,835.33. TheNasdaq Composite Index was down 3.10 points, or 0.07 percent, at 4,237.58.
For the week, the Dow is up 2 percent, the S&P is up 2.1 percent and the Nasdaq is up 2.7 percent. It is the second straight week of gains for all three.
Men’s clothing retailer Jos. A. Bank Clothiers Inc said it would buy outdoor wear specialist Eddie Bauer for $825 million from private equity firm Golden Gate Capital, spurning any merger considerations with rival Men’s Wearhouse Inc. Jos. A. Bank rose 0.4 percent to $55.15 while Men’s Wearhouse slumped 4.7 percent to $44.34.
Insurer American International Group on Thursday raised its dividend and announced more share buybacks as its fourth-quarter earnings beat expectations. Shares fell 1.9 percent to $48.64.
Weight Watchers International Inc plunged 26 percent to $22.61 after it forecast a full-year adjusted profit far slimmer than estimates.
Cliffs Natural Resources rose 6 percent to $23.21 as the best performer on the S&P 500. Much better-than-expected earnings were helped by a drop in costs and higher iron ore prices.
GNC Holdings Inc tumbled 13 percent to $45.52. The health supplements retailer posted weaker-than-expected quarterly results.
VF Corp declined 6.5 percent to $56 after the apparel company reported fourth-quarter earnings and issued its 2014 outlook.
LCA-Vision Inc jumped 26 percent to $5.35 after the laser vision correction services company agreed to be acquired by skin health company PhotoMedex Inc for about $106 million. PhotoMedex shares edged up 0.5 percent to $13.89.