Stocks mixed despite strong retail sales report


NEW YORK -- The Dow Jones industrial average has notched its ninth gain in a row, giving the index its longest winning streak in 16 years.

The Dow rose five points, or 0.04 percent, to close at 14,455 points today.

The Dow has risen every day so far in March, adding 400 points to the index. It broke through its previous all-time high on March 5.

The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index climbed two points to 1,554, a gain of 0.1 percent.

The Nasdaq composite edged up nearly three points to 3,245.

Retail stocks rose after the government reported an unexpectedly big increase in consumer spending last month.

Rising stocks outpaced falling ones on the New York Stock Exchange. Volume was slightly lower than the recent average at 3 billion shares.

The solid increase in retail sales is encouraging for the economy because it shows that Americans kept spending despite a payroll tax increase that has lowered take-home pay this year for most workers. Consumer spending drives about 70 percent of the U.S. economy.

Stocks of retail companies rose after the report. Kohl's rose $1.18 to $48.52 and Best Buy gained 61 cents to $20.89.

If the Dow closes higher, it would match the longest streak of advances since May 1996, according to Ryan Detrick, an analyst at Schaeffer's Investment Research. The Dow is up 10.2 percent this year and has closed at record highs over the previous six days.

Demand for stocks has been propelled this year by optimism that the housing market is recovering and that companies have started to hire. Strong company earnings and ongoing stimulus from the Federal Reserve are also helping make stocks more attractive.

The broader S&P 500 index has gained 8.8 percent and is within less than a percentage point of its record close of 1,565.15 set in October 2007.

Stocks in Europe were mixed. Most markets edged lower after industrial production in the countries using the euro unexpectedly fell by 0.4 percent in January. Economists had expected it to rise by 0.1 percent, according to FactSet.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.05 percent from 2.02 percent.

Among stocks making big moves;

— Spectrum Pharmaceuticals plunged $4.28, or 34 percent, to $8.15 after the pharmaceutical company said sales of its drug Fusilev could fall by more than half this year.

— Dole dropped 95 cents to $10.78 after the company's fourth-quarter results fell short of analysts’ expectations. The fruit company cited lower banana prices in North America.

— Silver Spring Networks, a technology company based in Redwood City, California, surged $4.01, or 24 percent, to $21.01 on its stock market debut.

—Express fell $1.49 to $17.36 after the clothes retailer's earnings report disappointed investors. Michael Weiss, the company's CEO and chairman, told analysts on a conference call that consumer numbers were “down noticeably” compared to last year.