US stocks mostly rise on retail sales increaseap file photo
Trader Anthony Carannante, left, works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
Stocks were mostly higher Monday afternoon, recovering some of the ground lost after a rough finish last week. A government report showing U.S. retail sales posted their biggest gain in 18 months in March and solid earnings from Citigroup helped cheer investors as corporate earnings start to come in.
KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor’s 500 index was up three points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,818 as of 3:22 p.m. Eastern Time. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 43 points, or 0.3 percent, to 16,119. The Nasdaq gave up an early gain and was down five points, or 0.1 percent, at 3,994.
The S&P 500 dropped 2.7 percent last week, its worst weekly showing since January. The Nasdaq composite notched its third consecutive weekly decline.
SALES UP: Retail sales rose 1.1 percent in March, the best showing since September 2012, the Commerce Department reported. The government also revised February’s figure to a 0.7 percent gain, more than double its previous estimate. Sales dropped in January and December.
“Retail sales was a really big number and very impressive,” said Doug Cote, chief market strategist at ING U.S. Investment Management. “It bodes well for the market.”
GOOD SIGN: Retail sales improved, particularly in the second half of March, as unusually cold weather that gripped much of the country this winter began to ease. That motivated more people to go out and spend, which is good news for the economy.
“As we look forward, the consumer may continue to (spend) and may continue to drive the economy overall,” said J.J. Kinahan, chief strategist with TD Ameritrade.
CITI: Citigroup reported a 2.5 percent increase in first-quarter profit. Both income and revenue beat Wall Street’s expectations. The lender got a boost from improving results in its Citi Holdings unit, which is selling off assets such as mortgages that soured in the financial crisis. Citi’s shares surged $1.90, or 4.2 percent, to $47.58.
POSITIVE PROGNOSIS: WebMD said it expects to report strong first-quarter results at the end of the month and anticipates reaching the upper end of its annual earnings and revenue projections. The health website operator’s stock climbed $6.03, or 16 percent, to $43.70.
SECTOR WATCH: Nine of the 10 sectors in the S&P 500 index rose, led by energy stocks. Health care stocks fell slightly.
HEART STOPPER: Medical device maker Edwards Lifesciences rose the most of any stock in the S&P 500 index. A federal judge on Friday reaffirmed an earlier ruling that Medtronic’s CoreValve system infringes on Edwards’ patent for a replacement heart valve. Edwards soared $8.36, or 11.5 percent, to $81.33. Medtronic fell $1.28, or 2.2 percent, to 57.93.
OIL BOOM: Goodrich Petroleum got a big boost Monday when it reported results from a well in Louisiana. Shares rose $5.31, or 28.9 percent, to $23.72. The stock is up 39 percent this year. The latest gains build on an impressive turnaround by the oil and gas producer, whose shares fell for four straight years from 2009 through 2012. The stock began bouncing back last year.
STOCK SPOTLIGHT: Among the biggest risers in afternoon trading were Boston Scientific, up 51 cents, or 4 percent, to $13,20 and Transocean, up $1.50, or 3 percent, to $40.81. Decliners included Intuitive Surgical, which shed $14.12, or 3.1 percent, to $425.50. Gap slipped 78 cents, or 2 percent, to $37.62.
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