Wall Street stocks rebound as US retail sales improve
Stocks on Wall Street have rebounded as strong retail sales helped build optimism for the start of earnings season next week.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed 29.55 points, or 0.3%, higher at 10,927.07, after slipping as much as 53 points earlier in the session.
The measure, which has declined for two days in a row, was led by American Express, up 2.6%. McDonald's, up 1.9% and Microsoft, up 1.8%.
Several other technology components weakened, with IBM down 0.6%, Intel off 0.4% and Cisco Systems down 0.1%. The Nasdaq Composite Index finished 0.2% up at 2436.81.
The S&P 500 gained 0.3% to 1186.44, led by a 1.1% gain in its consumer-discretionary sector after the latest round of same-store sales reports from major retailers generally showed strong growth.
Target was up 4% and TJX rose 0.5% after reporting strong sales for March. JC Penney and Kohl's also reported improved sales, but their shares lagged. JC Penney fell 4.6%, while Kohl's slipped 0.7%.
Mounting concern over the Greek debt crisis continued to weigh on European stock markets.
The Greek stock market tumbled by more than 5% at one point in the day to close down 3.1%.
European Central Bank president Jean-Claude Trichet tried to soothe rattled investors by dismissing the notion of a Greek debt default.
Across Europe, selling pressures were more muted. The pan-European Stoxx 600 Index closed down 0.9% at 266.28.
The UK's FTSE 100 Index fell 0.9% to 5712.70, France's CAC-40 Index ended down 1.2% at 3978.46 and Germany's DAX lost 0.8% to 6171.83.
Asian markets closed lower as weaker-than-expected economic data helped to drag Japan's benchmark stock index to its lowest intraday level in a week.
Japan's core machinery orders in February fell 5.4% on-month, fueling selling in Tokyo. The data missed expectations for a 3.9% rise – a discouraging sign for capital expenditure.
Nissan Motor shed 1.7%, falling in line with other car makers on the yen's strength, despite announcing a tripartite alliance between Renault, Nissan and Daimler to develop a new generation of small cars, share engines and cooperate in small commercial vans. Nissan shares have risen 17% since the beginning of March.
Japan's Nikkei Stock Average of 225 companies closed down 1.1% to 11,168.20 while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 ended 0.5% lower at 4937.91 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index fell 0.3% 21,867.04.
Taiwan's main index fell 0.8% to 8057.60 and the Shanghai Composite finished 0.9% lower at 3118.71. Korea's Kospi Composite was a lone advancer among the major indexes, up 0.4% to 1733.78.
Singapore's Straits Times Index fell 0.8% to 2963.19 snf India's Sensex was down 1.4% to 17,714.40.
Commodities: Oil down, gold steady
Oil futures retreated from recent highs as swelling oil inventories and a growing aversion to risk among investors kept buyers out of the market.
Light, sweet crude for May delivery fell 83USc, or 1%, to $US85.05 a barrel in New York. Brent crude on the ICE futures exchange fell 45USc to $US85.14 a barrel.
Gold futures ended little changed as continued worries about Greek debt clipped appetite for perceived riskier assets.
The most-active June contract fell 10USc to $US1152.90 an ounce in New York. Thinly traded April gold lost 10USc to $US1152.20.
Currencies: Euro up, dollar down
The euro rebounded from steep early losses after Greek budget data showed a marked improvement and the European Central Bank voiced confidence in the country's ability to meet its obligations.
The euro sank to as low as $US1.3282 but recovered to $US1.3352, compared with $US1.3354 late on Wednesday.
The dollar weakened to ¥93.19 from ¥93.30. The euro weakened to ¥124.52 from ¥124.59.
The UK pound moved to $US1.5268 from $US1.5247. The dollar weakened to 1.0717 Swiss francs from 1.0737 francs.