* S&P 500 on track for best week since Nov
* U.S. factory activity improves
* Ford, GM shares rise after auto sales data
* Indexes up: Dow 0.11 pct, S&P 0.14 pct, Nasdaq 0.29 pct (Updates to late afternoon)
By Lewis Krauskopf
NEW YORK, July 1 (Reuters) - The major U.S. stock indexes clung to modest increases on Friday, helped by encouraging U.S. manufacturing data, putting them on pace for a fourth straight day of gains.
The S&P 500 was on track for its best week since November, staging a strong rebound after its worst two-day decline in 10 months after Britain’s shock vote last week to leave the European Union. The indexes have erased almost all their losses stemming from the “Brexit” vote.
“Clearly, people have assessed that either, one, it’s not a big deal, or, two, it’s not going to happen at all, and they’re positioning according to those views,” said Walter Todd, chief investment officer at Greenwood Capital in Greenwood, South Carolina.
The Dow Jones industrial average was up 18.97 points, or 0.11 percent, at 17,948.96, the S&P 500 had gained 2.98 points, or 0.14 percent, at 2,101.84 and the Nasdaq Composite added 14.28 points, or 0.29 percent, at 4,856.95.
Six of the 10 major S&P sectors were higher, with the consumer discretionary group’s 0.7 percent rise leading the gainers. Financials were the worst performing group, slipping 0.5 percent.
With Wall Street’s post-“Brexit” rebound, the S&P 500 is up nearly 3 percent for the year and within about 30 points of its intraday record high. Still, some investors believe political and economic uncertainty stemming from Britain’s vote could throw off markets in the weeks to come.
Data on Friday showed U.S. factory activity expanded at a healthy pace in June as new orders, output and exports rose, providing another sign that U.S. manufacturing was regaining its footing after weakness early this year.
“It’s been a wild ride, but positive economic momentum in the United States has and continues to be a ray of sunshine,” said Daniel Kern, chief investment strategist of TFC Financial Management in Boston.
Government bond yields around the world hit their lowest in years, driven by the prospect of further cuts in interest rates and more central bank bond buying to support weak economies.
Shares of automakers Ford and GM were each up about 1.5 percent. Robust demand for pickups and SUVs pushed up U.S. auto sales in June but the growth fell short of estimates.
Harley-Davidson’s shares jumped 13.5 percent after unsubstantiated market chatter that the motorcycle company might be a takeover target. The stock was the top percentage gainer on the S&P.
Micron Technology fell 9.9 percent after the chipmaker posted disappointing sales and said it would cut jobs.
Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by 1,837 to 1,161, for a 1.58-to-1 ratio on the upside; on the Nasdaq, 1,684 issues rose and 1,118 fell for a 1.51-to-1 ratio favoring advancers.
The S&P 500 posted 88 new 52-week highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq recorded 90 new highs and 10 new lows. (Additional reporting by Yashaswini Swamynathan in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and James Dalgleish)