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US stocks close higher

US stocks finished higher on Friday following a choppy day of trade as investors weighed some solid retail earnings reports with mixed economic data.

NEW YORK: US stocks finished higher on Friday following a choppy day of trade as investors weighed some solid retail earnings reports with mixed economic data.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average advanced 44.50 points (0.27 per cent) to 16,491.31.

The broad-based S&P 500 added 7.01 (0.37 per cent) at 1,877.86, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index rose 21.30 (0.52 per cent) to 4,090.59.

Mace Blicksilver, director of Marblehead Asset Management, said better-than-expected earnings from retailers Nordstrom and J.C. Penney boosted sentiment.

Yet Blicksilver noted all three stock indices were in negative territory for much of the day until a rally lifted the market about an hour before closing.

"It's a very mixed kind of tape," he said.

The Commerce Department said that overall housing starts rose 13.2 per cent in April from March. However, most of the gains were in the often-volatile multi-family units, while the rise in the economically more important single-family home sector was weak.

US auto safety regulators imposed a record $35 million fine on General Motors for its failure to promptly recall cars with ignition faults linked to at least 13 deaths. The largest US automaker also agreed to what regulators described as "unprecedented oversight" as part of the settlement. Shares dropped 1.1 per cent.

Pfizer announced that it will submit a new drug application to the Food and Drug Administration for its breast-cancer drug palbociclib in the third quarter, more quickly than expected. Shares of the Dow component rose 0.2 per cent.

Investors bid up J.C. Penney shares by 16.3 per cent after the company reported a 6.2 per cent gain in same-store sales in the first quarter to May 3, and said gross margins improved.

Retailer Nordstrom powered 14.7 per cent higher on earnings of 72 cents per share in its first quarter, exceeding its forecast of 60-70 cents per share. Credit Suisse upgraded the stock.

Cloud computing company Rackspace Hosting shot up 17.7 per cent one day after it disclosed in a securities filing that it hired Morgan Stanley to explore strategic options, including a possible sale of the company.

Darden Restaurants announced it would sell its Red Lobster seafood chain for $2.1 billion to Golden Gate Capital in a move that will allow it to reduce debt and boost shareholder payouts. Darden fell 4.3 per cent. 

Bond prices dipped. The yield on the 10-year US Treasury rose to 2.52 per cent from 2.50 per cent on Thursday, while the 30-year advanced to 3.35 per cent from 3.34 per cent.

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