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US stocks jump as worries over Crimea vote fade

NEW YORK (AP) -- Stocks rose sharply Monday as investors brushed aside the ongoing political turmoil in Ukraine and focused on a surge in output at U.S. factories last month.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average rose 163 points, or 1 percent, to 16,229 as of 1:30 p.m. Eastern time. It jumped as much as 204 points earlier. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 16 points, or 0.9 percent, to 1,858 and the Nasdaq composite added 42 points, or 1 percent, to 4,288.

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

“It's another small piece of evidence that the economy is beginning to thaw from the winter,” said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank, which oversees $66 billion in assets.

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 policy meeting starting Tuesday. 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 62 cents, or 1.5 percent, to $44.63 after announcing that it planned to split off its Land's End business.

HERTZ SPIN-OFF? Rental car company Hertz Global rose $1.30, or 5 percent, to $27.28 on reports that the company was looking to sell its construction equipment rental business.

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