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Stocks took off on Monday, with the Dow taking a triple-digit leap after a report that March retail sales jumped their highest in 18 months.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed unofficially 146 points higher, while the S&P 500 added 14 points and the Nasdaq put on 22 points.

Citigroup's better-than-expected earnings lifted its shares over 4 percent and boosted the financial sector, with Bank of America also gaining.

Figures from the Commerce Department showed retail sales climbing 1.1 percent in March -- the highest increase since September, 2012, furthering the notion that the U.S. economy is recovering after harsh weather curbed spending at the beginning of the year.

After a 22 percent rise last week, the CBOE Volatility Index, a measure of investor uncertainty, on Monday fell 1.5 percent to 16.78.

"The lack of an extreme spike in the VIX tells me there is not much panic out there. We are still in a very solid, fundamentally sound market," said Frederick at Charles Schwab.

Advancers remained just ahead of decliners on the New York Stock Exchange, where 440 million shares traded as of 3:30 p.m. Eastern. Composite volume surpassed 2.4 billion.

The dollar gained against the currencies of major U.S. trading partners and 10-year Treasury yield used in figuring mortgage rates and other consumer loans added 2 basis points to 2.644 percent.

Gold for June delivery rose $8.60, or 0.7 percent, to $1,327.6 an ounce and crude oil for May delivery rose 32 cents, or 0.3 percent, to $104.06 a barrel.

Monday's data also had U.S. business inventories climbing 0.4 percent in February versus a 0.5 percent estimate.