By Yashaswini Swamynathan
REUTERS - Wall Street rallied on Thursday, boosted by Apple and lackluster economic data that further dimmed the prospects of an interest rate hike in the near term.
Retail sales and industrial activity fell more than expected in August. The data follows reports showing a slowdown in job growth and a slump in manufacturing activity for the month.
However, jobless claims rose less than expected last week, indicating strength in the labor market – a key barometer the Federal Reserve considers while deciding monetary policy.
"The Fed continues to be in a real pickle. They want to raise rates and the data was strong in the past few weeks, but now you get the retail sales number and that takes the wind out of the sails a little bit," said Aaron Clark, portfolio manager at GW&K Investment Management in Boston, Massachusetts.
"While the data is not strong enough to push them over the edge and raise rates, they're not disastrous, recessionary-type numbers either."
A mixed bag of data and contrasting comments from Fed officials have left investors fretting over the chances of a hike when the central bank holds its policy-setting meeting next week.
Traders trimmed the odds for a hike at the meeting to 12 percent after the blast of data from 15 percent earlier, while the odds for a December hike stand at 50 percent, according to the CME Group's FedWatch tool.
At 11:17 a.m. ET (1517 GMT) the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 110.84 points, or 0.61 percent, at 18,145.61.
The S&P 500 was up 14.3 points, or 0.67 percent, at 2,140.07 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 53.29 points, or 1.03 percent, at 5,227.06.
The technology sector surged 1.25 percent, far outdoing gains in the other nine major S&P 500 indexes.
Apple rose 2.9 percent, rising for the fourth straight day and touching a nine-month high, after the company said its first batch of iPhone 7 Plus sold out globally.
Skyworks Solutions, which supplies chips to Apple, was the top percentage gainer on the S&P with a 6 percent jump.
The financials index gained the least, up 0.6 percent, on lower prospects of a rate hike.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 2,118 to 710. On the Nasdaq, 1,829 issues rose and 777 fell.
The S&P 500 index showed two new 52-week highs and one new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 41 new highs and 30 new lows.
(Reporting by Yashaswini Swamynathan in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D'Souza)