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By Jennifer Yousfi
Fueled by gains overseas and an uptick in retail sales at home, U.S. markets edged upward at midday.
At noon ET, the three major U.S. stock indices had all posted gains. The blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average Index was up 80.15 points (0.65%), to trade at 12,453.56. The tech-laden Nasdaq Composite Index increased 28.92 points (1.25%), to reach 2,302.54. And the broader Standard & Poor's 500 Index rose 7.53 points (0.56%), to settle at 1,356.39.
The Commerce Department announced today (Wednesday) that retail sales increased by 0.3% in January with gains in spending on autos, clothes and gasoline, Bloomberg reported. The increase follows a 0.4% decrease in December, which had sparked recession worries. Purchases excluding automobiles and gasoline were flat.
"Today's report will diminish recession anxieties, but it doesn't dispel them altogether," Richard DeKaser, chief economist at Cleveland-based National City Corp., told Bloomberg.
The market reacted favorably to the report, as consumer spending accounts for 70% of U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The financial sector [down -0.05%] was the only sector down at noon, while energy [up 1.38%] and technology [up 1.47%] were the big gainers.
In foreign trading, there were gains across the board with the exception of the U.K. FTSE indices. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index was up 46.34 points to close at 13,068.30. Hong Kong's blue-chip Hang Seng Index gained 247.88 points to close at 23,169.55.
In Europe, the Paris-based CAC40 and Frankfurt-based DAX had narrow gains. London's FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 were both down as U.K. mortgage lender Bradford & Bingley PLC took a $184 million (94 million pound) write-down.
At midday, the dollar had gained against the yen [up 1.036%] but lost ground to the both the euro [-0.144%] and pound sterling [-0.438%].
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U.S. stocks open up on rise in retail sales