US STOCKS-Wall St closes slightly higher, industrials lead

Reuters

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    * Retail sales post biggest gain in 1-1/2 yrs in March
    * Industrials boost S&P 500, Dow Jones
    * Pinterest surges in debut
    * Indexes up: Dow 0.42%, S&P 500 0.16%, Nasdaq 0.02%

 (Updates to market close)
    By Stephen Culp
    NEW YORK, April 18 (Reuters) - Industrials led the S&P 500
and the Dow moderately higher on Thursday after robust U.S.
economic data and some healthy corporate earnings reports.
    All three major U.S. stock indexes closed in positive
territory heading into the three-day weekend. 
    For the holiday-shortened week, the S&P snapped its
three-week winning streak, while the Dow and the Nasdaq posted
weekly gains. 
    The bellwether S&P 500 has hovered within a percent of its
all-time high for the last five sessions.
    "It's been kind of an anemic market over the last few
weeks," said Matthew Keator, managing partner in the Keator
Group, a wealth management firm in Lenox, Massachusetts.
"There's concern that the majority of the returns in 2019 were
front-end loaded."     
    U.S. retail sales  USRSL=ECI  in March blew past analyst
expectations, rising at their fastest monthly pace in 1-1/2
years, according to the Commerce Department. 
    In a separate report, data from the Labor Department
 USJOB=ECI  showed the number of Americans filing for
unemployment benefits dropped last week to a 50-year low.
 urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL1N21Z0OU 
    Industrial stocks boosted the markets following upbeat
quarterly results and remarks from China's commerce ministry
spokesman that progress has been made in U.S.-China trade talks.
 urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nB9N21900T 
    With reporting season in full swing, January-March S&P 500
profits are expected to have dropped 1.7% year-on-year, which
would mark the first decline in quarterly earnings since 2016.
    Of the 77 S&P 500 companies that have released results thus
far, 77.9% have beaten consensus, compared with the 65% average
beat rate going back to 1994.
    "Expectations were so low going into the quarter, there's
been some nice surprises," Keator added.
    Growing demand for aircraft parts drove Honeywell
International Inc's  HON.N  earnings beat. The company raised
its full-year forecast, and its stock rose 3.8%.  urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL3N2202W1
    Fewer catastrophe losses helped Travelers Companies Inc
 TRV.N  report higher-than-expected profit.  urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL3N2202ZW The
property & casualty insurer's stock gained 2.3%.
    Union Pacific Corp  UNP.N  shares advanced 4.4% after
beating earnings estimates as price hikes helped the railroad
offset the impact of severe weather and midwest floods.
 urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL3N2203AW
    Among earnings misses, Schlumberger NV  SLB.N  reported a
20% drop in first-quarter profit. Its shares slipped 3.9%.
 urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL3N22030O
    American Express Co's  AXP.N  quarterly revenue fell short
of analyst estimates,  urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL3N22036V but the stock ended the
session up 1.7%.
    The Dow Jones Industrial Average  .DJI  rose 110 points, or
0.42%, to 26,559.54, the S&P 500  .SPX  gained 4.58 points, or
0.16%, to 2,905.03 and the Nasdaq Composite  .IXIC  added 1.98
points, or 0.02%, to 7,998.06.
    Of the 11 major sectors in the S&P 500, seven closed in the
black.
    Industrials  .SPLRCI  were the biggest percentage gainers,
up 1.1%.
    Online scrapbook company Pinterest Inc  PINS.N  jumped 28.4%
in its debut.  urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL3N2203ZP
    Meanwhile, Lyft Inc  LYFT.O  dropped 1.9%. The ride-hailing
service's stock is now trading 19% below its $72 offer price.
    U.S. stock markets will be closed on Good Friday.
    Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a
1.07-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.05-to-1 ratio favored decliners.
    The S&P 500 posted 35 new 52-week highs and 2 new lows; the
Nasdaq Composite recorded 44 new highs and 77 new lows.
    Volume on U.S. exchanges was 6.79 billion shares, in line
with the average over the last 20 trading days.      

 (Reporting by Stephen Culp
Editing by Susan thomas)
 ((stephen.culp@thomsonreuters.com; 646-223-6076;))

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