US stocks recover some ground on retail sales gain


U.S. stocks mounted a modest rally on Monday, helping investors recover some of the ground lost after a rough finish last week.

Investors were bracing for another round of discouraging earnings and a third consecutive loss for the stock market. But the market pushed higher from the get-go Monday, receiving a boost from solid earnings from Citigroup and a strong pickup in retail sales last month.

Among the stocks that rose sharply were WebMD, Edwards Lifesciences and Goodrich Petroleum.

Stocks rose after the Commerce Department reported that retail sales increased 1.1 percent in March, the best gain since September 2012. The government also revised February’s figure to a 0.7 percent gain, more than double its previous estimate.

Sales improved particularly in the second half of March, as unusually cold weather that gripped much of the country this winter began to ease, motivating more people to go out and spend money.

“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.

Citigroup helped stoke the rally. The bank reported a 2.5 percent jump in first-quarter profit as both income and revenue beat Wall Street’s expectations. That was a welcome surprise following an earnings miss last week by JPMorgan Chase. A positive earnings outlook from health information portal WebMd also helped.

The gains faded somewhat late in the afternoon. The Nasdaq composite slipped briefly into negative territory, harking back to last week’s sharp drop in Internet and biotechnology stocks.

A wave of buying in the last half-hour of trading pushed the Nasdaq and other indexes to solid gains for the day. It was the market’s first finish in the green since April 9.

The Standard &Poor’s 500 index gained 14.92 points, or 0.8 percent, to close at 1,830.61. All ten industry sectors in the S&P 500 increased, led by energy stocks, which rose 1.3 percent.

The Dow Jones industrial average added 146.49 points, or 0.9 percent, to 16,173.24. The Nasdaq composite rose 22.96 points, or 0.6 percent, to 4,022.69.