While you were sleeping: US consumers, Citigroup

Wall Street rose as solid US retail sales data and better-than-expected results from Citigroup calmed frayed nerves and reassured some investors about the outlook for the world's largest economy and corporate profits.

A Commerce Department report showed that retail sales climbed a better-than-expected 1.1 percent in March, while February's gain was revised up to 0.7 percent. Last month's increase was the largest since September 2012.

"This is not a fragile economy," Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ in New York, told Reuters. "The linchpin of economic growth, the consumer is back and with the consumer's help, growth will be even faster in 2014."

Other upbeat reports included first-quarter profit from Citigroup which reported a surprise increase as losses from its troubled assets narrowed. That helped to ease concern about the current state of the banking industry, sparked by JPMorgan's disappointing results on Friday. Shares of Citigroup jumped, last up 4.1 percent.

Other banks scheduled to report earnings in the coming days include Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. While shares of JPMorgan extended Friday's losses, down 1.1 percent, Bank of America rose 1.2 percent, Goldman Sachs advanced 0.8 percent while Morgan Stanley climbed 1.6 percent.

In afternoon trading in New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average added 0.68 percent, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index increased 0.67 percent, while the Nasdaq Composite Index rose 0.50 percent.

Shares of Visa and Cisco each advanced, last up 2.1 percent and 1.5 percent respectively, and leading the Dow higher.

In Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index finished the session with a 0.3 percent gain from the previous close, as did Germany's DAX and the UK's FTSE 100. France's CAC 40 rose 0.4 percent.

Here the latest report showed industrial production in the euro zone rose 0.2 percent in February.

The euro weakened, declining 0.5 percent against the greenback, following comments by European Central Bank President Mario Draghi over the weekend that he considered loosening monetary policy to prevent a further strengthening of the currency.

Oil prices climbed, while the ruble sank, on increased tension between Russia and Ukraine amid signs Ukraine central government was losing control in more areas in the country's eastern region. Brent for May settlement increased 1.6 percent to US$109.03 a barrel. A report that a Russian military jet made several passes near a US naval ship unnerved investors.

"The situation in Ukraine deteriorated significantly over the weekend, which explains the strength in Brent," Bob Yawger, director of the futures division at Mizuho Securities USA in New York, told Bloomberg News. "The upsurge in unrest justifies trading at these levels."

(BusinessDesk)

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