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US stocks gain on pickup in retail sales
Encouraging retail sales, job market data help drive US stocks higher in early trading
By ALEX VEIGA
Associated Press
2014-03-13 10:42 PM

The U.S. stock market opened higher Thursday as investors welcomed a pickup in retail sales and more signs of health in the nation's job market.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose four points, or 0.3 percent, to 1,872 in the first half-hour of trading. The Dow Jones industrial average added 54 points, or 0.3 percent, to 16,394. The Nasdaq composite gained eight points, or 0.2 percent, to 4,332.

RETAIL REBOUND: U.S. retail sales rose 0.3 percent in February as Americans spent more on autos, clothing and furniture, the Commerce Department reported. Spending had fallen 0.6 percent in January. The increase suggests that spending has started to recover after being tempered by snowstorms and freezing temperatures that blanketed much of the country.

HEALTHIER JOB MARKET: Applications for unemployment benefits dropped 9,000 last week to 315,000. Applications are a rough proxy for layoffs. The declines indicate companies are confident enough about the economy to keep their staffs. Employers are hiring more after harsh winter weather lowered job gains in January and December.

ON ITS OWN: General Electric rose 16 cents, or nearly 1 percent, to $25.91 in early trading after the company said it would spin off its North American consumer lending unit. GE aims to complete an initial public offering for Synchrony Financial later this year.

EUROPE: European markets were mixed. The FTSE-100 index of leading British shares was down 0.2 percent. Germany's DAX rose 0.3 percent. The CAC-40 in France was up 0.1 percent.

BONDS, COMMODITIES: Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.75 percent from 2.73 percent late Wednesday. Commodities prices were mostly lower. Gold fell $3.30 to $1,367 an ounce and crude oil fell 8 cents to $97.91.

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