By Damian J. Troise
Stocks closed higher on Wall Street Tuesday as investors reviewed solid earnings reports from big retailers and a surprisingly strong report on consumer spending.
The government reported that Americans largely shrugged off higher prices last month and stepped up their spending at retail stores and online. The Commerce Department said retail sales rose 1.7% in October. That’s the biggest gain since March and up from 0.8% in the previous month.
“It reiterates the strength of the U.S. consumer, but you have to wonder a bit as inflation expectations rise, are people rushing to get in front of that,” said Mike Stritch, chief investment officer at BMO Wealth Management.
The S&P 500 index rose 18.10 points, or 0.4%, to 4,700.90 and is sitting just below the record it set on Nov. 8. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 54.77 points, or 0.2%, to 36,142.22. The Nasdaq rose 120.01 points, or 0.8%, to 15,973.86.
Technology stocks did much of the heavy lifting for the benchmark S&P 500, which had slightly more gainers than losers. Chipmaker Qualcomm rose 7.9%.
A wide range of companies that rely on consumer spending made solid gains. Home Depot rose 5.7% after the home improvement retailer reported surging sales and solid profits in the third quarter amid a hot housing market. The results also lifted competitor Lowe's by 4.2%.
Several companies that depend on consumer spending rose. Online crafts marketplace Etsy rose 5.1%. Nike rose 1.8% while Coach and Kate Spade parent Tapestry gained 1.5%.
The nation’s largest retailer, Walmart, also reported solid financial results while raising its profit forecast, but the stock fell 2.5% and gave back some of the big gains it’s made in the last few weeks.
Several other large retailers will release their latest financial results this week. Target reports its results on Wednesday and Macy’s reports results on Thursday.
Health care companies also rose. Communications companies and a makers of household goods and other consumer staples lagged the market.
Bond yields edged higher. The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 1.64% from 1.62% late Monday.
Investors received another encouraging economic update from the Federal Reserve, which said industrial production rebounded in October with a 1.6% gain. The gain followed a 1.3% plunge in September.
Wall Street is closely monitoring the latest economic reports for more clues as to how businesses and consumers are dealing with rising inflation. Companies have been raising prices as they face higher raw materials costs and supply chain problems. Consumers have been willing to pay the higher prices on many goods, though analysts are concerned that consumers could eventually pull back on spending because of inflation.
Heightened concerns over inflation tripped up the broader market last week following a strong run that lasted several weeks as companies reported mostly solid earnings. The latest round of earnings is nearing its finish and the market has very few singular events or economic reports to focus on through the end of the year.
“That inflation story is going to be big for the next six months and we're going to have a lot of stops and starts on that as it evolves,” Stritch said.
Updated on November 16, 2021, at 4:36 p.m. ET.