Stocks edge higher on retail spending gains

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NEW YORK (AP) ? Stocks indexes edged higher in afternoon trading Tuesday as investors balanced another spike in Italy’s main borrowing rate with an increase in U.S. retail spending. The Dow Jones industrial average rose almost 30 points in afternoon trading.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. lost 2.6 percent after reporting a surprise drop in earnings. Utilities and energy were the only industries in the S&P 500 to fall.

Higher interest rates on government debt issued by Italy, Spain and other European countries rattled stock markets in Europe early Tuesday. The market rate for Italy’s 10-year bond jumped back above 7 percent. When rates crossed the 7 percent threshold last week, it raised worries about the country’s ability to manage its debts. Greece, Ireland and Portugal were forced to seek financial lifelines when their borrowing rates crossed the same mark.

In the U.S., the Commerce Department said early Tuesday that Americans spent more on autos, electronics and building supplies in October, raising retail sales for a fifth straight month. Sales increased 0.5 percent from the previous month, a faster rate than economists expected.

The retail sales report helped the U.S. stock market “show a certain degree of resilience in the wake of the negative headlines out of Europe,” said Todd Salamone, director of research at Schaeffer’s Investment Research.

The Dow was up 29 points, or 0.3 percent, to 12,109 as of 2:30 p.m. Eastern. The S&P 500 rose 7, or 0.6 percent, to 1,258. The Nasdaq composite gained 28, or 1 percent, to 2,685.

Traders remained cautious. Treasury prices slipped on continued worries about Europe’s debt crisis led investors to seek safe-haven assets. The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 2.06 percent from 2.04 percent late Monday. Bond yields rise when their prices fall.

Sales at Staples Inc. fell short of analysts’ expectations, and the company also cut its earnings forecast for the year. Its stock dropped 5.5 percent, the most in the S&P 500 index.

Among other companies reporting quarterly results, Home Depot said spending on home projects and storm-related repairs helped lift earnings. The country’s largest home-improvement retailer also raised its earnings estimate for the year. The stock gave up early gains of 1 percent was trading 0.5 percent lower. Department store chain Saks Inc. posted stronger sales and rose 2.2 percent. Urban Outfitters Inc. lost 3.2 percent after the company missed Wall Street’s revenue forecasts.

Dell Inc. reports quarterly results after the market closes.