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MARKET SNAPSHOT: U.S. Stocks Lifted By Retail Sales, Mergers

By Kate Gibson NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- U.S. stocks climbed Monday for the first session in three after the government reported that retail sales rose in October and after Caterpillar Inc. announced a sizable acquisition. "Investors are feeling mildly comforted that Christmas might not be a total disaster," said Paul Nolte, managing director at Dearborn Partners, of the better-than-expected retail-sales data ahead of the holiday shopping season. About 20 points away from its session high, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) lately added 65.62 points, or 0.6%, to 11,258.2, with all but four of its 30 components trading higher. The blue-chip benchmark closed Friday at its lowest level since Nov. 2. The S&P 500 Index (SPX) gained 5.4 points, or 0.5%, to 1,204.61, with the financial sector performing best among its 10 industry groups and natural-resource companies faring the worst. Regional banks were among the notable advancers, with shares of Fifth Third Bancorp (FITB) and Zions Bancorp (ZION) both up more than 2%. The Nasdaq Composite Index (RIXF) added 9.04 points, or 0.4%, to 2,527.25. For every stock that fell, more than two rose on the New York Stock Exchange, where 512 million shares traded as of 3 p.m. Eastern. The Commerce Department reported that retail sales climbed 1.2% last month on increased appetite for automobiles. . Another report had manufacturing in the New York region contracting in November for the first time in more than a year. Merger Monday Construction-machinery giant Caterpillar (CAT) said it would acquire mining-equipment maker Bucyrus International Inc. (BUCY). . "The Caterpillar deal this morning is important in the sense of does Caterpillar think we'll continue to see commodities go to the moon here, and they are at least bullish on economic growth," said Jay Suskind, senior vice president at Duncan-Williams Inc. On Monday, commodities were mixed as the U.S. dollar gained alongside equities. Gold futures finished up $3 at $1,368.50 an ounce, and crude-oil futures slipped below $85 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The dollar index (DXY) was recently at 78.530, up from 78.106 late Friday. "We saw the dollar rally last week on China's comments that they're going to raise interest rates. But we need it to get above 80 before we can say the trend has changed; at least then, the downtrend we've seen for much of this year will have been broken, strictly from a technical basis," said Dearborn Partners' Nolte. Caterpillar wasn't alone on the acquisition front, with data-storage company EMC Corp. (EMC) saying it would buy Isilon Systems Inc. (ISLN) for $2.25 billion. On the earnings front, Lowe's Cos. (LOW) reported an increase in third-quarter profit, but the home-improvement retailer cut its full-year earnings forecast. . After the close, retailers Urban Outfitters Inc.(URBN) and Nordstrom Inc. (JWN) are both scheduled to report their quarterly results. Before Tuesday's open, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) will report its third-quarter results, with analysts looking for signs of improvement from the world's largest retailer. Also on tap Tuesday, Apple Inc. (AAPL) says it will make an announcement about its iTunes Store, now the top music retailer in the U.S. Later in the week, General Motors Co. will make an initial public offering, with the auto maker earlier in the month saying its common shares would sell for $26 to $29 apiece. That range is now likely pegged at $31 to $33 a share, a person familiar with the matter told The Wall Street Journal.

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