U.S. stocks rise on retail sales increase
Stocks were trading 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 rose nine points, or 0.5 percent, to 1,824 as of 2:35 p.m. Eastern Time. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 92 points, or 0.6 percent, to 16,119. The Nasdaq added 14 points, or 0.4 percent, to 4,013.
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: All 10 sectors in the S&P 500 index rose, led by energy stocks.
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 midday trading were Micron Technology, up 94 cents, or 4.4 percent, to $22.07, and MasterCard, which added $3, or 4.4 percent, to $71.68. 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.
EARNINGS RADAR: Citi's solid quarter and the encouraging earnings outlook by WebMD were welcome surprises after an earnings miss last week by JPMorgan Chase that got the first-quarter earnings season off to a sluggish start. Analysts still expect first-quarter earnings for companies in the Standard & Poor's 500 to decline 1.6 percent from a year earlier, according to FactSet, a financial data provider. If profits do fall, it would be only the second quarterly drop in three years. Among the major companies due to report earnings this week are Johnson & Johnson, Google, General Electric and UnitedHealth.
BONDS AND COMMODITIES: In government bond trading, the yield on the 10-year Treasury note inched up to 2.64 percent from 2.63 percent late Friday. The price of crude oil rose 31 cents to close at $104.05 a barrel. Gold rose $8.50 to settle at $1,327.50 an ounce.