By Anora Mahmudova and Carla Mozee, MarketWatch
NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- The U.S. stock market opened higher on Friday, putting the main benchmarks on track to record a second straight week of gains.
Stock prices were boosted by a relative calm on the geopolitical scene over the past week, while soft economic reports eased fears that the Federal Reserve would hike rates sooner rather than later.
The S&P 500 (SPX) opened 7 points, or 0.4%, higher at 1,962.20 and was set to record a solid weekly gain.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) added 46 points, or 0.3%, to 16,759.30 and was higher over the week.
The Nasdaq Composite (RIXF) began the session 27 points, or 0.6%, higher at 4,479.87 and was on track to record a weekly gain.
Natalie Trunow, chief investment officer of equities at Calvert Investments, said the broader environment as well as healthy earnings are supporting the market.
"Flare-ups in the geopolitical scene have impacted risk-aversion to some degree, but fundamentals remain healthy -- the U.S. economy is growing and corporations' profits are growing," Trunow said.
In economic news, U.S. producer prices inched up in July, a second consecutive month of gains, led by services such as transportation and warehousing, the government reported Friday. That is one of several recent inflation gauges that show price growth isn't running too hot for the Fed.
Separately, thanks to a sizable jump in auto production, industrial production rose in July, marking the sixth month of gains, the Federal Reserve said Friday.
A reading on consumer sentiment from the University of Michigan/Thomson Reuters is due at 9:55 a.m. Eastern Time. The mood is expected to have improved in August; economists polled by MarketWatch expect a preliminary reading of 82.3, compared with 81.8 in July. Analysts look at sentiment surveys to get a feel for the direction of consumer spending, the key driver of the U.S. economy.
"Recent stock gains and the steady weekly decline in gasoline prices at the pump likely buoyed August sentiment," wrote Crédit Agricole's chief economist for North America Michael Carey.
At 10:45 a.m. Eastern, Narayana Kocherlakota, the Minneapolis Fed president, will talk about the economy andthe state of community banking at the Independent Community Bankers of Minnesota's annual meeting. Kocherlakota, one of the Fed's leading doves, is a voting member of the Fed policy committee this year.
Crédit Agricole's Carey noted that geopolitical tensions in Ukraine and the Middle East have put a strain on market sentiment in recent weeks.
In Ukraine on Friday, border guards and customs officers began inspecting a convoy of trucks that Russia says contains humanitarian aid for war-torn eastern Ukraine. Ukraine has said the convoy could be used as a prelude to a Russian invasion.
Stocks in focus
Monster Beverage (MNST) shares leapt on Coca-Cola's (KO) move to acquire a 17% ownership stake in the energy drink company, as part of a long-term partnership deal. Coke will make a $2.15 billion cash payment and transfer its global energy drink business to Monster.
Achillion Pharmaceuticals (US-ACHN) rallied in heavy volume followingpositive results from a clinical trial related to sovaprevir, the company's experimental hepatitis C treatment.
SeaWorld Entertainment (SEAS) shares rallied 3.3% after the company confirmed that it will upgrade its killer whale tanks, succumbing to public pressure from animal activists.
Applied Materials Inc. (AMAT) gained, after the chip-making equipment provider's quarterly sales and earnings report topped Wall Street expectations. Read more about the day's notable movers here.
In other markets, 10-year Treasury yields fell 1.5 basis points to 2.38%. Oil futures (CLU4) edged higher and gold futures (GCZ4) fell 1.5%. In Asia, the Hong Kong Hang Seng index finished at its best level in more than three years. European stocks were higher.
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(END) Dow Jones Newswires
August 15, 2014 09:50 ET (13:50 GMT)
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