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Midday Market Report: Consumer Sentiment Beats Expectations


Two separate reports on consumer sentiment and spending showed that Americans are willing to shop.

Wall Street is bouncing back from three days of losses today after reports of consumer sentiment and spending data showed that Americans are optimistic enough to go shopping.

European equities and the euro made gains today as the eurozone's finance ministers agreed to strengthen the "firewall" fund to help troubled sovereign debtors.
  • The Eurostoxx 50 (^STOXX50E) fell 1% to 2,477.28.
  • The FTSE 100 (^FTSE) rose 0.46% to 5,768.45.
  • Germany's DAX (^GDAXI) gained 1.04% to 6,946.83.
US stocks are rallying as data released today showed that consumer sentiment in March improved and that consumer spending in February grew faster than personal income.
  • The Dow (^DJI) rose 0.44% to 13,203.22.
  • The S&P 500 (SPY) gained 0.39% to 1,408.78.
  • The Nasdaq (^IXIC) rose 0.10% to 3,098.52.
The Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment index beat estimates, rising from 75.3 in February to 76.2. A separate report showed that consumer spending in February rose 0.8% over the month before, 4.1% more than February 2011. Personal Income rose 0.2%.. Chicago-area PMI showed a wider-than-expected contraction of the manufacturing sector in the Midwest.

Oil futures are rebounding as well on the positive economic data. WTI crude oil futures rose 0.67% to $103.47/barrel.

One company that is already benefiting from the improved consumer mood is Gap Inc. (GPS), which rose 0.77% today after Janney raised its rating on the retailer to a "buy." Janney noted that Gap's brands are getting better traffic thanks to good pricing and successful fashions such as Banana Republic's retro "Mad Men" line, based on the AMC (AMCX) series.

Finish Line (FINL), the athletics retailer, reported a rise in profits in the fourth quarter, but the stock declined 13.3% because the company's outlook for the year ahead fell short of expectations.

Twitter: @vincent_trivett
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