Economic reports boost US stocks

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The Dow Jones industrial average closed up 20 points at 12,062

US stocks finished with small gains after stronger-than-expected economic news and a jump in January retail sales.

Consumer discretionary companies in the S&P 500 index gained 1.2% after chains reported sales nearly double what analysts had forecast. Costco Wholesale and Gap each gained more than 4%.

The Labour Department said fewer people applied for unemployment benefits last week.

At the market close, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 20 points, or 0.2%, at 12,062. The S&P 500 index was up 3, or 0.2%, at 1,307. The Nasdaq composite rose 4, or 0.2%, to 2,753.

Rising and falling shares were even on the New York Stock Exchange. Volume totalled 1 billion shares

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