US STOCKS-Wall St advances on retail strength

* Retailers’ stocks rise as March sales beat estimates
* Weekly jobless claims rise, continuing claims down
* Greek bonds and bank stocks battered
* Dow up 0.3 pct, S&P 500 up 0.3 pct, Nasdaq up 0.2 pct

* For up-to-the-minute market news, click [STXNEWS/US]
(Updates to early afternoon)

By Rodrigo Campos

NEW YORK, April 8 (BestGrowthStock) – U.S. stocks (Read more about the stock market today. ) gained on
Thursday, led by the retail sector after surprisingly strong
March sales as a rebound in consumer spending was seen as a
harbinger for strength in corporate earnings.

Investors snapped up retailers’ shares after top U.S.
chains reported a record increase in March same-store sales.
The early Easter holiday and an improving job market last
month helped retailers beat Wall Street’s forecast.

Online merchant (AMZN.O: ) jumped 4.4 percent to
$140.75, a 2010 intraday high for the stock, leading the S&P
500 higher. The S&P retail index (.RLX: ) rose 1.1 percent.

Earlier in the day, another wave of worry about Greece had
pushed stocks lower. Concerns about Greece’s ability to pay
its debt have weighed on investor psyche for months.

Investors unloaded Greek assets on Thursday as the
government bond market priced in the threat of a liquidity
crunch for the euro zone member — even as Athens sought to
reassure markets it was not at risk of default. [GVD/EUR]

An index of U.S.-listed stocks of Greek companies (.BKGR: )
fell 2 percent.

“The consumer seems to be coming out of hibernation and
the latest data shows stabilization in (economic) growth,”
said Thomas Nyheim, portfolio manager at Christiana Bank &
Trust Co. in Greenville, Delaware.

He said the positive news coming from the United States
overshadowed the issues regarding Greek fiscal stability.

The Dow Jones industrial average (.DJI: ) gained 31.36
points, or 0.29 percent, to 10,929.88. The Standard & Poor’s
500 Index (.SPX: ) rose 3.18 points, or 0.27 percent, to
1,185.63. The Nasdaq Composite Index (.IXIC: ) added 3.66
points, or 0.15 percent, to 2,434.82.

Early in the day, major U.S. retail chains reported a
record 9.1 percent jump in March same-store sales — beating
the forecast for a 6.3 percent gain, according to Thomson
Reuters data. Of the 28 retailers that Thomson Reuters tracks,
more than 90 percent topped estimates. [ID:nN08170785].

The pick-up in consumer spending, which accounts for
roughly two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, could point to
stronger corporate earnings and further boost stocks.

Target Corp (TGT.N: ) shot up 3.5 percent to $55.88. The S&P
consumer discretionary index (.GSPD: ) rose 0.9 percent, leading
the benchmark S&P 500’s advance.

Shares of United Airlines parent UAL Corp (UAUA.O: ) climbed
8.9 percent to $20.63 on Nasdaq and US Airways Group (LCC.N: )
surged 12.9 percent to $7.70 on the New York Stock Exchange in
the wake of news that the two airlines were in merger talks.

In the latest snapshot of the job market, initial claims
for state unemployment benefits unexpectedly rose 18,000 to a
seasonally adjusted 460,000, the Labor Department said,
reflecting volatility in the data associated with the Easter
holidays. Economists expected first-time claims to slip to

But a hopeful sign for the job market came from continuing
jobless claims, which fell to the lowest since December 2008.
For details, see [ID:nN08324871].

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US STOCKS-Wall St advances on retail strength