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US stocks surge as worries over Crimea vote fade

By KEN SWEET
AP Markets Writer

NEW YORK (AP) - Stocks were sharply higher in late-morning trading Monday, recovering from a three-week low, as investors brushed aside the ongoing political turmoil in Ukraine. A surge in output at U.S. factories last month also helped push the market higher.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average rose 142 points, or 0.9 percent, to 16,207 as of 11:32 a.m. Eastern time. It jumped as much as 204 points earlier. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 13 points, or 0.8 percent, to 1,855 and the Nasdaq composite added 33 points, or 0.8 percent, to 4,278.

FACTORIES DEFROST: The Federal Reserve said U.S. factory output rebounded strongly, up 0.6 percent, in February after harsh winter storms caused a steep drop-off in production in January. Manufacturers produced more autos, home electronics and chemicals. The rise was triple the increase that economists had expected.

UKRAINE WORRIES FADE: The vote in the Ukrainian region of Crimea to join Russia had been widely expected. Worries that the Crimea issue might prompt an escalation in tensions between Russia and Western powers have unsettled financial markets over the past few weeks. In the run-up to Sunday's referendum, many stock markets around the world hit multi-week lows while "safe haven" investments such as the Japanese yen and gold rose.

"Russia got what it wanted without having to take Crimea by force," said Sam Stovall, chief equity strategist with S&P Capital IQ.

SANCTIONS: Both the White House and the European Union announced sanctions and visa restrictions against several Russian officials as a result of the referendum. The U.S. imposed sanctions on seven Russian government officials as well as four Ukrainians, including former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. The EU slapped travel bans and asset freezes on 21 people from Russia and Crimea.

LATER THIS WEEK: The Federal Reserve will hold a two-day meeting starting tomorrow through Wednesday. Investors expect the central bank to pull back further on its bond-buying economic stimulus program, as it has done for the last two meetings.

SEARS SPLIT: Sears Holdings rose 44 percent, or 1 percent, to $44.41 after announcing that it planned to split off its Land's End business.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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