Stocks open higher on healthy retail sales

Stocks open higher on healthy retail sales
Monday, October 15, 2012 - 8:57am

U.S. stocks inched higher at the opening bell Monday, as investors digested the latest corporate earnings and economic data, including a sharp rise in retail sales.

The Dow Jones industrial average and the S&P 500 both gained about 0.2%. The Nasdaq added 0.3%.

Reports released Monday showed signs of improvement in retail sales and manufacturing. Retail sales jumped 1.1% in September, boosted by higher gas prices and electronic sales, according to the Census Bureau. That's higher than the 0.7% rise expected by analysts.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York's monthly Empire State Manufacturing Index remained in negative territory in October, but improved to a reading of -6.2 compared to a reading of -10.4 in September.

On the earnings front, investors kicked off the week with quarterly results from Citigroup. The bank reported third-quarter earnings before the opening bell that topped forecasts.

U.S. stocks took a beating last week, capping a down week with modest declines Friday, as investors turned cautious ahead of an onslaught of corporate results and economic data. For the week, the Dow lost more than 2% -- the biggest weekly decline since June 1. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq suffered similar declines.

On Sunday, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke gave a speech in Tokyo on Sunday defending the U.S. central bank. He insisted that the Fed's actions haven't hindered economic growth in developing countries, contrary to criticism in the international community.

Overseas, a report Monday showed that inflation in China slowed in September. Chinese consumers paid 1.9% more for goods in September than they did a year earlier, the government's National Bureau of Statistics reported. That's down from a 2% increase in August.

Asian markets ended mixed. The Shanghai Composite slipped 0.3%, the Hang Seng in Hong Kong was little changes, and Japan's Nikkei ticked up 0.5%.

Meanwhile, European stocks moved higher in morning trading. Britain's FTSE 100 edged up 0.4%, the DAX in Germany added 0.6% and France's CAC 40 rose 1.1%.

Companies: Shares of toy maker Hasbro fell more than 2% after analysts at Goldman Sachs downgraded the stock to sell. Goldman cited a sharp decline in the amount of money American consumers spend on toys and games. Shares of rival toy company Mattel also dipped.

Sprint Nextel said early Monday that it reached an agreement to sell a 70% stake to Japan's Softbank for $20.1 billion. Shares of Sprint gained 1%, adding to last week's strong gains.

Media conglomerate Gannett and brokerage Charles Schwab both reported earnings that beat forecasts. Results are due later in the week from blue chip companies including Goldman Sachs, IBM and Intel.

Currencies and commodities: The dollar fell against the euro, but rose slightly against the British pound and Japanese yen.

Oil for November delivery sank $1.40 to $90.46 a barrel.

Gold futures for December delivery dropped $14 to $1,745.80 an ounce.

Bonds: The price on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury fell, pushing the yield up to 1.67% from 1.66% late Friday.

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