US stocks move slightly higher, keeping indexes at record levels; Retail stocks climb



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NEW YORK — The U.S. stock market held at record levels in early afternoon trading Monday. Renewed confidence that stimulus measures from global central banks will help spur economic growth is supporting demand for stocks.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose four points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,067 as of 3:18 p.m. Eastern. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 10 points, or less than 0.1 percent, to 17,799. The Nasdaq composite gained 35 points, or 0.7 percent, to 4,748.

CONSUMER GOODS: The so-called consumer discretionary sector, which includes retailers such as Coach, Urban Outfitters and Gap, led gains for the stock market ahead of the holiday season. Coach rose 98 cents, or 2.6 percent, to $37.41 as analysts at Stifel reiterated their belief that the company was "doing the right things to reinvigorate the brand." The analysts believe that the stock's price could climb as high as $47.

THE BACKDROP: The S&P 500 has gained 11 percent since bottoming out in a slump that stretched from mid-September to mid-October. The rally has been driven by a belief that central bank actions in Europe, China and Japan will help invigorate global economic growth.

On Friday, China's central bank lowered a key interest rate and European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said he was willing to step up the bank's efforts to stimulate the region's struggling economy.

THE QUOTE: "You clearly have momentum favoring stocks right now," said Russ Koesterich, chief investment strategist at Blackrock. "You have a persistence of low interest rates and, if anything, long-term rates continue to grind lower in most parts of the world."

TOUGH YEAR COMING: Verizon slumped 82 cents, or 1.6 percent, to $49.40. Analysts at Citigroup cut their outlook on the stock to "neutral," predicting that the telecom company's earnings will come in lower than most Wall Street analysts expect. Revenue growth at the big telecommunication companies will be crimped by more intense competition next year and higher prices for wireless spectrum. AT&T also fell, dropping 59 cents, or 1.7 percent, to $34.68.

EUROPE: Sentiment was supported in European markets by a rise in the closely watched Ifo business confidence survey in Germany, the first after six months of declines. The increase suggests Europe's largest economy may improve after a weak summer, though growth is likely to remain subdued.

MARKET BOOST: Germany's DAX rose 0.5 percent to 9,785 while France's CAC-40 gained 0.5 percent to 4,385. London's FTSE 100 dipped 0.3 percent to 6,729.

OPEC: Traders are also watching a meeting in Vienna on Thursday of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries for a possible agreement to cut production to shore up prices. The price of crude has tumbled 25 percent since the summer as producers kept output stable while demand in Europe and other markets weakened.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude fell 73 cents, or 1 percent, to $75.78 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

BONDS AND CURRENCIES: U.S. government bond prices were flat. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note held at 2.31 percent. The dollar continued its ascent against the Japanese yen. The U.S. currency rose to 118.41 yen from 117.79 yen Friday. The euro rose to $1.2426 from $1.2360.

METALS: The price of gold fell $2, or 0.2 percent, to $1,195.70 an ounce. Silver dropped 1.9 cents, or 0.1 percent, to $16.38 an ounce. Copper declined 3.2 cents, or 1 percent, to $3 per pound.

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