Stocks Start Higher after Ratail Sales Data

U.S. stocks began higher on Tuesday, after retail sales rose in July for a fourth consecutive month. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lately was off 0.32 points, to 15,419.36. The S&P 500 added 1.43 points, or 0.08%, to 1,690.90. The Nasdaq Composite climbed 1.39 points, or 0.04%, to 3,671.34.

A gauge of U.S. consumer spending rose in July at its fastest pace in seven months, a sign of quicker economic growth that could strengthen the case for the U.S. Federal Reserve winding down a major economic stimulus program. Retail sales outside of cars, gasoline and building materials rose 0.5 percent last month, the Commerce Department said.

U.S. import prices rose less than expected in July as an increase in the cost of petroleum was offset by the biggest drop in the price of non-petroleum goods in nearly 4-1/2 years, pointing to benign inflation pressures. Import prices gained 0.2 percent last month, the Labor Department said on Tuesday.

J.C. Penney said activist investor Bill Ackman had resigned from the board, three years after embarking on a public and at times acrimonious campaign to turn around the struggling department store operator.

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