Strong retail sales lift US stocks; Nasdaq at record

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NEW YORK (AFP) - Wall Street stocks finished higher on Friday (Oct 13), with the Nasdaq edging to a fresh record, following data showing strong US retail sales in September.

US retail sales jumped 1.6 per cent last month due to strong trade in cars, car parts and fuel following US hurricanes, Commerce Department data showed.

"In our view, the American consumer has quite a bit of firepower, even if some of this is being funded by credit," said Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished at 22,871.72, up 0.1 per cent, narrowly missing a record.

The broad-based S&P 500 added 0.1 per cent at 2,553.17, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index advanced 0.2 per cent to 6,605.80, topping Wednesday's record by about two and a half points.

Wells Fargo dropped 2.8 per cent after badly missing earnings estimates due to US$1 billion (S$1.3 billion) in fresh legal costs and higher overall expenses following a fake accounts scandal.

Bank of America gained 1.6 per cent after reporting a 15 per cent rise in third-quarter earnings to US$5.1 billion behind a strong performance in consumer banking due to increased interest rates.

California utility PG&E plunged 10.5 per cent as it disclosed that California officials are investigating the possible role of company power lines and facilities in causing catastrophic wildfires.

PG&E holds US$800 million in liability insurance for potential losses, it said, adding that the company's financial performance could be "materially affected" if liabilities exceed that sum.

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