After last week's slump, stocks battled back today despite yesterday's overwhelming vote in Crimea to join Russia. An overwhelming 97% of voters in the Ukrainian region backed secession, though investors seemed to be reassured by claims in Ukraine and the West that the vote was illegal. The U.S. and the EU also issued sanctions against on at least two dozen Russian officials. Meanwhile, investors seemed encouraged by economic data released today. The Empire State manufacturing report improved from 4.5 in February to 5.6 this month, slightly ahead of estimates at 5.4, while industrial production jumped 0.6% in February on the biggest gain in manufacturing since the summer, helping cure some of the economy's winter blues. Elsewhere, a housing market indicator showed improvement from February, but was still below expectations. The overall optimism led the Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI 1.26%) up 182 points or 1.2%, while the S&P 500 gained 1%.
Turning to individual stocks, shares of Kandi Technologies (KNDI 0.36%) were rocketing higher today, finishing up 23%. The Chinese electric-vehicle maker said revenue rose 92% to $50.6 million as EV sales jumped 193.7% to $40 million as it sold 3,568 units. Adjusted net income was up 259% to $4.6 million, or $0.15 per share. Estimates were not available for comparison. The stock has soared lately on excitement about the company's electric-vehicle sharing network, which is set to spread from Hangzhou to Beijing and Shanghai, and is now up over 400% in the last year. CEO Xiaoming Hu said the system "has been well received and highly recognized." A new EV subsidy in China has also helped boost sales. The company did not provide guidance, but Hu noted its recent upgrade to the Nasdaq Global Select Market, and promised continued expansion of its EV-sharing program in new and existing markets in 2014.
Also moving higher today were shares of iRobot (IRBT -0.41%), finishing up 5.6% today after announcing the availability of a new robot. The robot-maker's Ava 500 telepresence robot, which was first announced a year ago and had been in development for years before, is the size of a human with a pivoting screen as a head, and allows all the features of video conferencing plus complete freedom of movement. Among its many applications are remote management, and inspecting/supervising areas such as manufacturing floors, data centers, and laboratories. At a price tag of $70,000, the Ava 500 is no small investment, but bringing it to market certainly represents a win for iRobot. It's too soon to make sales assumptions, but investors can expect to learn at the company's next quarterly earnings report.