* S&P 500 hits intraday record, discretionary names rally
* Ford shares rally after March auto sales
* Medicines Co tumbles after court ruling
* Indexes up: Dow 0.4 pct, S&P 0.5 pct, Nasdaq 1.3 pct (Updates to late afternoon trading)
By Ryan Vlastelica
NEW YORK, April 1 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks rose on Tuesday, with the S&P 500 advancing to an intraday record after positive data on factory activity indicated economic growth was gaining traction after a harsh winter.
Gains were broad, but areas of the market closely tied to the pace of economic growth were among the day’s leaders. Consumer discretionary stocks rose 1.2 percent while technology shares were up 1.1 percent.
The PHLX housing sector index rose 1.3 percent and the Nasdaq biotechnology index added 1.7 percent.
The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) said its index of national factory activity rose to 53.7 in March, its second straight monthly acceleration. However, the report was below the median forecast of 54.0.
The ISM report was the latest economic data to point to improving conditions, giving credence to the theory that soft data earlier this year was due to weather and not weakening fundamentals.
“There’s a whiff of spring in the economic data, which means we’re starting the second quarter with signs that the economy is maintaining the kind of reasonable growth that will continue to support the market,” said Jim McDonald, chief investment strategist at Chicago-based Northern Trust Global Investments, which has about $884 billion in assets under management.
“I‘m comforted by the rise in discretionary and homebuilding stocks, since those are the ones that really show economic strength. Meanwhile the rise in biotech shows improved risk appetite.”
Ford Motor Co jumped 5.1 percent to $16.40 after U.S. auto sales rose more than expected in March, following two months during which demand was hampered by weather. General Motors Co rose 0.4 percent to $34.55.
Among tech names, Google Inc rose 1.3 percent to $1,128.55 and Microsoft Corp added 1.1 percent to $41.44. Both were among the biggest boosts to the Nasdaq 100 index, which was up 1.4 percent.
Shares of Cisco Systems jumped 4.6 percent to $23.25 as the biggest advancer on the Dow. The stock moved on heavy volume in its biggest daily increase since May 2013.
The Dow Jones industrial average was up 64.16 points, or 0.39 percent, at 16,521.82. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index was up 9.68 points, or 0.52 percent, at 1,882.02. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 54.96 points, or 1.31 percent, at 4,253.95.
Earlier in the session, the S&P 500 rose to 1,884.6, a record level, and it is on track for a record close.
Financial data firm Markit said its final U.S. Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index slipped to 55.5 in March, unchanged from a preliminary reading last week, and the rate of growth and the pace of hiring remained strong.
Construction spending edged up 0.1 percent in February as outlays on private residential construction projects recorded their biggest decline in seven months.
Intuitive Surgical Inc jumped 11.5 percent to $488 as the best performer on the S&P 500 after the company said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave marketing clearance for the company’s da Vinci Xi Surgical System.
Medicines Co tumbled 16 percent to $23.86. The company said the U.S District Court of Delaware ruled a generic version of its blood thinner made by Hospira Inc did not infringe two of Medicine Co’s patents. Hospira shares gained 1.5 percent to $43.91.
The S&P 500 rose 1.3 percent in the first quarter, matching its longest quarterly winning streak since 2007, buoyed by gains Monday after Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen soothed concerns about an earlier-than-expected rate hike. (Editing by Bernadette Baum and Nick Zieminski)