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Stocks move higher after retail sales data

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.Brendan Mcdermid / REUTERS

Stocks moved higher Monday after the worst weekly drop for the S&P 500 this year as retail sales in March and Citigroup earnings topped expectations.

The Dow Jones industrial average was lately up over 100 points.

The benchmark S&P index fell 2 percent last week and lost 2.7 percent over the past two weeks, its worst two-week slide since November, on increasing concerns about the euro-zone debt crisis and weaker-than-expected economic data.

Retail sales rose more than expected in March as Americans shrugged off high gasoline prices and bought a range of goods, indicating economic growth in the first quarter did not soften as much as many had feared.

Separately, the Commerce Department said businesses restocked their shelves at a steady pace in February, with inventories rising a seasonally adjusted 0.6 percent, but down from January’s upwardly revised 0.8 percent gain.

A recent spate of soft economic data, highlighted by the March payrolls report, increased worry the recovery in the economy had begun to slow.

Citigroup advanced after posting a first-quarter profit that topped Wall Street expectations.

But the economic picture was not entirely rosy as the New York Federal Reserve said the pace of manufacturing growth in New York state slowed sharply in April to its lowest level in five months.

"On balance, things are better than they were last year. Earnings will bear that out, and we will also continue to see more good news than bad," said Tim Holland, co-portfolio manager, Aston/TAMRO Diversified Equity Fund in Alexandria, Virginia.

"As you work through the next month or two, people will come to the conclusion this isn't a repeat of 2011, the economy is much stronger, earnings are much stronger this time around."

Earnings season will pick up steam this week, with 86 S&P 500 companies scheduled to report results. According to Thomson Reuters data, of the 32 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported results to date for the first quarter of 2012, 75 percent have reported earnings above analyst expectations.

Jury selection in a high-stakes dispute over smartphone technology between Oracle Corp and Google Inc is set to begin on Monday morning, kicking off a trial in which chief executives of both companies are expected to take the stand.

Reuters contributed to this report.