* Upward momentum persists, Internet shares among day’s gainers
* Deere shares drop after outlook, drags on S&P 500
* Empire State Index contracts, PPI shows weak inflation pressure
* Dow up 0.3 pct, S&P 500 up 0.4 pct, Nasdaq up 0.3 pct
By Ryan Vlastelica
NEW YORK, May 15 (Reuters) - The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq rose for a fourth straight day on Wednesday as tech shares gained and offset some weak economic data.
Equities have rallied in recent weeks, with both the Dow and S&P 500 hitting all-time highs as investors expect central bank stimulus measures will keep supporting market gains.
Such policies have helped spur advances of about 15 percent in major indexes this year despite data showing signs of slowing growth. Activity in New York state’s manufacturing sector unexpectedly contracted in May, falling to minus 1.43 from 3.05, below expectations for an increase to 4. Another report showed that U.S. industrial production fell 0.5 percent in April, more than expected.
“It’s disconcerting that the data was so much lower than what we were looking for, but there’s no reason for investors to sell,” said Michael Binger, senior portfolio manager at Gradient Investments in Minneapolis. “The main things driving the market - the Fed, earnings, consumer confidence - are holding up, and people put money in the market on any down day. I still see a lot of value.”
Agilent Tech was one of the S&P 500’s top percentage gainers a day after the company posted adjusted earnings that beat expectations and doubled its stock-buyback program to $1 billion. The company also said it would cut 2 percent of its global work force.
Tech shares also got a lift from Netflix Inc, up 4.5 percent at $244.55, and Yahoo Inc, up 3 percent at $27.44.
The Dow Jones industrial average was up 37.98 points, or 0.25 percent, at 15,253.23. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index was up 5.87 points, or 0.36 percent, at 1,656.21. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 8.54 points, or 0.25 percent, at 3,471.15.
On the downside, Deere & Co gave a cautious outlook even as earnings topped forecasts. The stock fell 4.6 percent to $89.45. Deere’s decline dragged on on the S&P industrial index , which was up only 0.1 percent.
In other data released on Wednesday, the U.S. Producer Price Index recorded its largest drop in three years in April, falling a seasonally adjusted 0.7 percent.
The NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market index rose to 44 from a downwardly revised 41 in April, according to data from the National Association of Home Builders. The May reading was above forecasts and closer to the 50 mark, which indicates builders see market conditions in a more favorable light.
An improving housing market has been seen as a tailwind to the economic recovery.
Crude oil fell 1.8 percent after data showed the euro zone was in its longest recession ever, while a stronger dollar and rising U.S. refined products stockpiles put additional pressure on prices.
The drop in crude pressured shares of energy companies, with Marathon Oil down 1.8 percent at $34.74, and Cliffs Natural Resources, off 3.2 percent at $21.44.
“One of the biggest things we’re watching today is commodity prices, which are down pretty big across the board,” said Binger, who helps oversee about $330 million.
Macy’s shot up 2 percent to $48.34 after the retailer reported higher first-quarter profit and sales, and raised its quarterly dividend 25 percent.
SunPower Corp shares surged 16.2 percent to $22.12 after the maker of solar panels and solar power plants said it expects to post an adjusted profit for the current quarter.