Financial Markets: Retailers, tech boost U.S. stocks

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NEW YORK >> Big gains by retailers and technology companies boosted stocks in afternoon trading Friday as the market headed for one of its best weeks of 2015.

Nike climbed after saying it will raise its dividend and buy back $12 billion in stock.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 72 points, or 0.4 percent, to 17,804 as of 3:20 p.m. Eastern time. The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 6 points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,086. The Nasdaq composite climbed 25 points, or 0.5 percent, to 5,098.

Discount retailer Ross Stores gained $4.10, or 8.9 percent, to $50.30 after it reported results that were better than analysts expected. Gap advanced $1.76, or 7 percent, to $26.85 after its own quarterly report, and Urban Outfitters rose 83 cents, or 3.7 percent, to $23.12.

Retail relief

Retail stocks were pummeled this month after weak reports from Macy's and Nordstrom caused investors to worry that the holiday shopping season would be a bust.

"That spooked everybody that had some kind of apparel offering," said Ken Perkins, president of the research firm Retail Metrics.

But those fears are fading. Perkins said shoppers are looking for discounts and turning to lower-priced retailers like TJ Maxx and Ross Stores and to "fast fashion" retailers who keep up with the latest trends.

Tech stocks traded higher. Alphabet, the parent company of Google, rose after it announced that former VMWare CEO Diane Green will run Google's commercial technology business. That suggests Google wants to strengthen its enterprise business, which is a big profit center for Amazon and Microsoft but an area where Google has lagged.

Alphabet shares rose $16.23, or 2.1 percent, to $776.17. They are on pace for their biggest gain in a month.

HP Enterprise, which sells commercial computer systems, software and tech services, rose 50 cents, or 3.6 percent, to $14.28. Web domain-name registration company VeriSign added $3.25, or 3.8 percent, to $89.88.

The S&P 500 is on pace to rise 3.2 percent this week, which would be one of its best weeks in 2015.

"Throughout the week we got more and more news that the Federal Reserve was assessing the economy favorably," said Erik Davidson, chief investment officer at Wells Fargo Private Bank.

Davidson said investors have slowly gotten used to the idea that the Federal Reserve is going to raise interest rates. That prospect that worried them greatly a few months ago, but now, stocks are rising because investors are taking heart that the Fed believes the economy is on solid footing. Meanwhile, new economic stimulus in Europe could strengthen the global economy.

Going turbo

TurboTax maker Intuit climbed after it reported strong quarterly revenue and gave a forecast for the current quarter that was better than analysts expected. The stock added $5.88, or 6 percent, to $103.30.

Chipotle Mexican Grill dropped $55.91, or 9.1 percent, to $555.60 after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said an E. coli outbreak linked to Chipotle locations has been found in three more states around the country. In October Chipotle briefly closed all its restaurants in Oregon and Washington to stem the outbreak.

U.S. crude lost 15 cents to $40.39 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price international oils, rose 48 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $44.66 a barrel in London. This week U.S. crude dipped under $40 a barrel for the first time in almost three months.

Wholesale gasoline was unchanged at $1.371 a gallon. Heating oil was also little changed at $1.29 a gallon. Natural gas fell 13 cents to $2.145 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Metals prices continued to slide. The price of gold fell $1.60 to $1,076.30 an ounce. Silver slipped 12.6 cents, or 0.9 percent, to $14.10 an ounce. Copper declined 2.2 cents, or 1 percent, to $2.06 a pound.

U.S. government bond prices slipped. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.26 percent from 2.25 percent late Thursday. The euro fell to $1.0657 from $1.0731. The dollar edged up to 122.87 yen from 122.86 yen.

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