US stocks close higher on dollar fall and economic data

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(Close): US shares made strong gains on Thursday, ending two consecutive days of falls.

The Dow Jones added almost 260 points, or 1.5%, to end at 17,635.39, after a weaker dollar helped assuage the market's fears of lower corporate profits and a sooner-than-expected interest rate rise.

The S&P 500 added 26 points, or 1.3%, closing at 2,065.95, while the Nasdaq rose 0.9%, or 43 points to 4,893.29.

The dollar fell 0.86% against the euro.

One US dollar now buys €0.94.

Some market-watchers were concerned that a strong dollar could negatively impact US firms, whose overseas earnings may be worth less after currency conversions.

Additionally, a strong dollar could make it more difficult for companies to compete with foreign rivals, who may be able to offer cheaper products.

Intel was the biggest faller on the Dow Jones, after it warned that firms weren't upgrading their computers. Shares in the firm fell more than 4% on the warning.

However, shares in Walt Disney were up by 4.16% following news that the studio is developing a sequel to box office juggernaut Frozen.

Toy-maker Mattel, which currently owns the license to sell Frozen products, saw its shares rise by 4.2%.

Winter woes

Weaker-than-expected February retail sales, which dipped by 0.6% - the third straight month of declining sales - cheered some market watchers, who worry that the Federal Reserve will be forced to raise interest rates sooner rather than later as the US economy improves.

Analysts blamed frigid temperatures across most of the northeast for the sales dip.

However, most analysts don't expect retail sales to remain muted for much longer.

"The consumer fundamentals are solid - lower energy prices, well received employment reports, stronger real disposable income growth, and elevated consumer confidence," said IHS Global Insight economist Chris Christopher in a note to clients.

"We expect consumers to come out swinging in March. Much of the lost sales in February will be made up in March."