Consumer shares lift Wall Street, but Greece drags

By Rodrigo Campos

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Consumer shares led a modest rebound on Wall Street on Tuesday, after the SP 500 fell for four of the past five sessions, but gains were capped as investors kept an eye on the political impasse in Greece.

Quarterly results helped boost the SP consumer discretionary sector index, with TJX (TJX.N) up 7.4 percent at $42.65 and Dick’s Sporting Goods (DKS.N) up 9.2 percent at $51.59. The SP retail sector index (.RLX) rose 1.5 percent.

U.S. retail sales rose 0.1 percent in April, slightly below expectations. However, details in the Commerce Department’s report indicating underlying strength in demand and a rebound in manufacturing activity in New York State calmed concerns that the economy was stalling.

“Earnings have been pretty good and supporting the market to a certain degree,” said John Manley, chief equity strategist at Wells Fargo Funds Management in New York.

“People are still worried about things, but earnings surprises are more positive than not, and that is encouraging them to stay in stocks – if not move into stocks.”

Data showing an index of home builders’ sentiment at a five-year high in May helped lift the sector’s shares. The PHLX housing index (.HGX) rose 1.8 percent.

Amazon (NSQ:AMZN – News) shares also lifted retailers and gave a boost to the Nasdaq after Credit Suisse upgraded the stock to “outperform” and raised its price target to $270 from $190. The stock jumped 2.6 percent to $228.72.

The Dow Jones industrial average (DJI:^DJI – News) gained 32.88 points, or 0.26 percent, to 12,728.23. The SP 500 Index (MXP:^GSPC – News) added 3.63 points, or 0.27 percent, to 1,341.98. The Nasdaq Composite (NAS:^COMP) rose 21.83 points, or 0.75 percent, to 2,924.41.

Attempts to form a government in Greece collapsed, sending European equities lower on the prospect that those opposed to the terms of an EU/IMF bailout and a German-led push for austerity could sweep to victory in new elections.

“The Greeks and Germans seem to be playing an enormous game of chicken. It is unsettling to the market that those who would rather renegotiate the existing agreement seem to be gaining strength after the election,” said Wells Fargo’s Manley.

On Monday, the SP 500 index closed at its lowest level since February. Concerns about Greece have been a primary reason for the SP 500′s weakness.

Groupon Inc (GRPN.O) reported its first quarterly profit after the closing bell on Monday. Its stock climbed on Tuesday, rising 12 percent to $13.14.

JPMorgan Chase Co (NYS:JPM – News) rose 3.2 percent to $36.92, mostly unchanged this week after falling more than 11 percent last week after disclosing a trading loss of at least $2 billion. Pressure mounted on the bank to reclaim some of the millions of dollars it paid to the executives who oversaw the wrong-way trades.

Avon Products Inc (NYS:AVP – News) tumbled 10.4 percent to $18.57 after Coty Inc (COTY.UL) withdrew its $10.7 billion takeover bid for the company, saying it had missed a deadline to start discussions.

Chesapeake Energy Corp (NYS:CHK – News) shares dropped as much as 7.8 percent to $14.31, their lowest since March 2009, after a credit rating downgrade and news that the natural gas producer will increase its borrowing to $4 billion from the planned $3 billion as it faces a liquidity crunch. By early afternoon, the stock had retraced a little bit of that loss, although it was still down 6.7 percent at $14.48.

Facebook Inc increased the price range of its initial public offering, aiming to raise more than $12 billion and giving the world’s largest social network a valuation potentially exceeding $100 billion.

The indications of high demand for Facebook’s IPO bolstered the shares of other social media companies, with online game maker Zynga (ZNGA.O) up 7.4 percent at $8.54 and professional network LinkedIn up 3 percent at $113.80.

(Reporting by Rodrigo Campos; Editing by Jan Paschal)

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