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US STOCKS-Wall St closes slightly higher, industrials lead

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* Retail sales post biggest gain in 1-1/2 yrs in March

* Industrials boost S&P 500, Dow Jones

* Indexes up: Dow 0.42%, S&P 500 0.16%, Nasdaq 0.02% (Updates to market close)

By Stephen Culp

NEW YORK, April 18 (Reuters) - Industrials led the S&P 500and the Dow moderately higher on Thursday after robust U.S.economic data and some healthy corporate earnings reports.

All three major U.S. stock indexes closed in positiveterritory heading into the three-day weekend.

For the holiday-shortened week, the S&P snapped itsthree-week winning streak, while the Dow and the Nasdaq postedweekly gains.

The bellwether S&P 500 has hovered within a percent of itsall-time high for the last five sessions.

"It's been kind of an anemic market over the last fewweeks," said Matthew Keator, managing partner in the KeatorGroup, a wealth management firm in Lenox, Massachusetts."There's concern that the majority of the returns in 2019 werefront-end loaded."

U.S. retail sales USRSL=ECI in March blew past analystexpectations, rising at their fastest monthly pace in 1-1/2years, according to the Commerce Department.

In a separate report, data from the Labor DepartmentUSJOB=ECI showed the number of Americans filing forunemployment benefits dropped last week to a 50-year low.

Industrial stocks boosted the markets following upbeatquarterly results and remarks from China's commerce ministryspokesman that progress has been made in U.S.-China trade talks.

With reporting season in full swing, January-March S&P 500profits are expected to have dropped 1.7% year-on-year, whichwould mark the first decline in quarterly earnings since 2016.

Of the 77 S&P 500 companies that have released results thusfar, 77.9% have beaten consensus, compared with the 65% averagebeat rate going back to 1994.

"Expectations were so low going into the quarter, there'sbeen some nice surprises," Keator added.

Growing demand for aircraft parts drove HoneywellInternational Inc'sHON.N earnings beat. The company raisedits full-year forecast, and its stock rose 3.8%.

Fewer catastrophe losses helped Travelers Companies IncTRV.N report higher-than-expected profit.

Union Pacific CorpUNP.N shares advanced 4.4% afterbeating earnings estimates as price hikes helped the railroadoffset the impact of severe weather and midwest floods.

Among earnings misses, Schlumberger NVSLB.N reported a20% drop in first-quarter profit. Its shares slipped 3.9%.

American Express Co'sAXP.N quarterly revenue fell shortof analyst estimates,

The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI rose 110 points, or0.42%, to 26,559.54, the S&P 500 .SPX gained 4.58 points, or0.16%, to 2,905.03 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC added 1.98points, or 0.02%, to 7,998.06.

Of the 11 major sectors in the S&P 500, seven closed in theblack.

Industrials .SPLRCI were the biggest percentage gainers,up 1.1%.

Online scrapbook company Pinterest IncPINS.N jumped 28.4%in its debut.

Meanwhile, Lyft IncLYFT.O dropped 1.9%. The ride-hailingservice's stock is now trading 19% below its $72 offer price.

U.S. stock markets will be closed on Good Friday.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a1.07-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.05-to-1 ratio favored decliners.

The S&P 500 posted 35 new 52-week highs and 2 new lows; theNasdaq Composite recorded 44 new highs and 77 new lows.

Volume on U.S. exchanges was 6.79 billion shares, in linewith the average over the last 20 trading days. (Reporting by Stephen CulpEditing by Susan thomas) ((stephen.culp@thomsonreuters.com; 646-223-6076;))


The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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