U.S. stocks open higher; retailers rise on holiday shopping

Stocks edged higher early Thursday as U.S. markets reopened for trading after the Christmas holiday.

Technology, banks and companies that rely on consumer spending led the gainers. Utilities, materials and industrial stocks lagged the most.

Amazon and other retailers rose after data showed a last-minute surge in online shopping helped holiday sales.

The modest gains had the major indexes on track for more record highs.

The benchmark S&P 500 index has finished with a weekly gain in 10 out of the past 11 weeks and is headed for its biggest annual gain since 2013 at 28.9%.

Rising optimism around a “Phase 1” trade deal announced earlier this month between the United States and China helped put investors in a buying mood in recent weeks. Fears about a possible recession have also faded since the summer after the Federal Reserve cut interest rates three times, and the central bank appears set to keep them low for a long time.

Still, as traders turn their attention to 2020, fears about the outlook for the global economy remain, as do concerns over unresolved trade issues between Washington and Beijing. Next year also has the added complication of the U.S. presidential election.

KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 was up 0.3% as of 10:12 a.m. Eastern time. The index last hit a record high on Monday.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 42 points, or 0.2%, to 28,558. The Nasdaq composite added 0.4%, on track to extend its winning streak to 11 days.

The indexes are coming off a mixed finish in shortened, pre-Christmas trading on Tuesday.

RETAIL RALLY: A report from Mastercard SpendingPulse showed holiday retail sales rose 3.4%, with online shopping rising 18.8%.

Amazon was the biggest gainer in the S&P 500, climbing 1.8%. Macy’s rose 0.8% and Nordstrom added 0.7%.

BOND YIELDS: Bond prices were little changed. The 10-year Treasury yield held steady at 1.90%.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude gained 47 cents to $61.58 per barrel. Brent crude oil, the international standard, picked up 46 cents to $66.62 per barrel.

MARKETS OVERSEAS: Markets in Europe, Hong Kong and Australia remained closed. Elsewhere in Asia, Japan’s Nikkei 225 index advanced 0.6% to 23,924.92, while the Kospi in South Korea gained 0.4% to 2,197.93. India’s Sensex lost 0.3% to 41,339.87. In Southeast Asia, benchmarks were mixed, while Taiwan was flat.

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