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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Arkansas Business) -- Stocks turning in gains following news on Thursday that one measure of the U.S. economy's health rose in February by the largest amount in three months.

The Conference Board's index of leading indicators increased zero-point-5 percent following a slight zero-point-1 percent rise in January and a zero-point-1 percent decline in December.

Manufacturing rebounds as orders increase

In another good sign, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia said manufacturing rebounded in that region in March as new orders increased.

All these gains coming as business thaw out from a particularly nasty winter.

Among those opening for big gains in the spring -- Wal-Mart Stores Inc. of Bentonville.

The retailer promising Black Friday-like deals starting today on outdoor items, including grills, patio furniture and lawn mowers.

Wal-Mart says it's its biggest sprig sales push ever. Executives say the sale was planned last summer as they received forecasts that the winter was going to be especially harsh.

The move also signals more aggressive competition for companies including Home Depot and Lowe's.

CEO of World Services for the Blind Retiring this Year

World Services for the Blind of Little Rock announcing that its CEO Larry Dickerson is retiring this year, effective Aug. 15.

Dickerson has led the nonprofit, which helps blind and partially blind people function independently, for five years.

Tom Duke, chairman of the board of directors, is hoping to name a successor by the end of May.

18 Teams named as finalists in Governor's Cup

Eighteen teams from six Arkansas colleges and universities, including 10 from the University of Arkansas, have been named finalists in the 2014 Donald W. Reynolds Governor's Cup collegiate business-plan competition.

Winners in four categories will be announced at the Governor's Cup awards luncheon on April 9 in Little Rock.

The Governor's Cup is managed by the Arkansas Economic Acceleration Foundation, which is part of The Arkansas Capital Corporation Group.

Arkansas Business is a sponsor of this year's event. The UA filled 10 of the 18 finalist spots, including a sweep of the graduate-level innovation category.

Other schools represented include John Brown University, Harding University, Hendrix College, Arkansas State University and Ouachita Baptist University.

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