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Wall Street Opens Higher on Retail Sales Cheer; Dow up 160 Points

Stock MarketsOct 16, 2020 14:45
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By Geoffrey Smith -- U.S. stock markets opened higher on Friday, lifted by a much stronger-than-expected report for retail sales in September that reassured market participants that consumer spending, the motor of the economy, is still holding up despite sustained high levels of layoffs and unemployment.

By 9:40 AM ET (1340 GMT), the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 160 points, or 0.6%, at 28,654 points. The S&P 500 was up 0.4% and the Nasdaq Composite was up 0.6%.

Earlier, the Commerce Department said that core retail rales rose by 1.5% in September from August, three times the 0.5% increase forecast ahead of time. The numbers outweighed a less positive update from U.S. factories industrial production fell by 0.6% in the month, rather than the 0.5% increase expected. While much of that was due to a bigger-than-usual drop in utility output of power as summer demand for air-conditioning tapered off, capacity utilization and manufacturing output also dropped.

However, analysts at ING noted that the retail sales numbers, too, may have been distorted, in as much as August's numbers didn't have the usual 'back to school' surge in clothing and department store expenditures. The pandemic this year has disrupted the seasonal patterns behind many high-frequency economic indicators, closing down factories that would normally be open and forcing consumers to change the way they spend  their money and when they spend it.

"There is clearly momentum behind spending," ING's chief international economist James Knightley said in a note to clients, with a nod to the sustained strength of personal income thanks to extensive government support for the newly-unemployed. "However," he added, "uncertainty about Covid-19, particularly the fear that European-style containment measures could eventually return to parts of the US, may mean fewer upside surprises in coming months."

Bank stocks remained under pressure at the end of a week when all the big lenders reported figures that showed significant pressure on their earnings from the collapse in U.S. interest rates.  JPMorgan (NYSE:JPM), Citigroup (NYSE:C), Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC) and Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) all fell by between 0.5% and 1%. 

More positively, Hertz Global  (NYSE:HTZ) stock more than doubled after the bankrupt car rental company said it had agreed $1.7 billion in debtor-in-possession funding that could pave the way for it to leave Chapter 11. Meanwhile, Navistar (NYSE:NAV) stock rose over 20% on reports that Volkswagen (DE:VOWG_p)'s truck unit Traton is close to completing the buyout of minority shareholders .

Pfizer  (NYSE:PFE) stock rose 2.2% after the pharma giant said it expects to apply for emergency use authorization for its experimental Covid-19 drug in the third week of November. Shares in its project partner Biontech (NASDAQ:BNTX), which are usually more sensitive to such news, rose 2.9% to a two-month high. The Pfizer/Biontech drug is one of the few big hopes for a Covid-19 treatment that hasn't yet run into trouble during its clinical trials. Eli Lilly (NYSE:LLY) and Johnson & Johnson both had to suspend their trials this week after unexplained illnesses among study participants.


Wall Street Opens Higher on Retail Sales Cheer; Dow up 160 Points

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