Retail sales were up 1.9% in September, the fifth straight monthly increase, according to the U.S. Commerce Department
Stocks are heading higher in early Friday on Wall Street, placing the market on track to close out a choppy week of trading with modest gains.
The S&P 500 was up 0.6%, clawing back all its losses from a day earlier. If the gains hold, the benchmark index would mark its third straight weekly gain. Health care and technology companies accounted for much of the gains. Retailers and other companies that rely on consumer spending also rose following a government report showing U.S. retail sales increased more than expected in September. Energy stocks lagged the most as the price of U.S. crude oil fell 1.8%.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 234 points, or 0.8%, to 28,730. The Nasdaq composite was up 0.7%.
The 10-year Treasury yield slipped to 0.73% from 0.74% late Thursday.
Stocks have been mostly climbing this month, but pulled back early this week as ongoing talks between Democrats and Republicans on an economic stimulus package failed to deliver results. Investors have been hoping that Washington would provide more financial support for the economy since July, when a $600-a-week extra benefit for the unemployed expired.
Traders have been watching economic data closely to see whether the loss of that beefed-up unemployment aid would lead to an overall pullback in spending. On Thursday, the government’s said the number of Americans seeking unemployment aid increased last week to 898,000, a historically high level that underscores how the economy continues to be hobbled by the pandemic and recession that erupted seven months ago.
But Friday’s retail sales report provides some encouragement, suggesting Americans’ appetite for spending remained solid last month. The Commerce Department said retail sales rose 1.9% in September, the fifth straight monthly increase.
Still, a surge in new coronavirus infections in Europe, the Americas and parts of Asia, gave traders reason to turn cautious this week. The new caseloads have led governments in France and Britain to impose new restrictions aimed on containing the outbreak.
Investors are also watching for earnings reports for indications of how businesses are holding up amid the pandemic. Rising COVID-19 cases may bring more social distancing restrictions and limits on public life, including a possible return to lockdowns that are damaging to growth.
Friday’s early gains on Wall Street followed a broad rally in European stock indexes, which clawed back some of their heavy losses from a day earlier. Germany’s DAX gained 1.2%, while France’s CAC 40 rose 1.7%. Britain’s FTSE 100 added 1.3%.
In Asia, Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 fell 0.4%. South Korea’s Kospi declined 0.8%, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gained 0.9% while the Shanghai Composite edged 0.1% higher.