U.S. financial markets inched higher in afternoon trading Wednesday, as traders weighed lackluster U.S. retail sales data and a batch of corporate deals and earnings news. Owens-Illinois and Williams Cos. were among the biggest gainers. Oil prices rose.
KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average rose 19 points, or 0.1 percent, to 18,088 as of 1:08 p.m. Eastern. The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained four points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,103. The Nasdaq composite added 17 points, or 0.4 percent, to 4,994.
RETAIL SALES: The Commerce Department said that retail sales were unchanged in April after rising 1.1 percent the previous month. Steady hiring has yet to lead to significantly higher incomes. Sales have risen just 0.9 percent over the past 12 months.
THE QUOTE: Many investors may be looking at the weaker-than-anticipated retail sales numbers as an indication that the Federal Reserve won't take action to lower its key interest rate before September, said Phil Orlando, chief equity strategist at Federated Investors.
"The Fed is looking at this data too, and if you thought they would be considering a rate hike in June, I don't see how you do that on the basis of this data point," Orlando said.
GLASS DEAL: Owens-Illinois, which makes beer and wine bottles, jumped 10.4 percent after saying it would buy a glass container business from the Mexican company Vitro. The stock rose $2.48 to $26.27.
WHAT A GAS: Shares in Williams Companies rose 4.4 percent on news that the gas infrastructure company is buying Williams Partners in a $13.8 billion stock deal. The stock added $2.20 to $52.30.
PROXY FALLOUT: DuPont sank 6.2 percent after billionaire investor Nelson Peltz's Trian Fund lost a proxy fight against the chemical maker. The stock slid $4.61 to $69.75.
NOT GOOD ENOUGH: EZchip Semiconductor tumbled 23.7 percent after the network processor delivered a disappointing customer update. The stock fell $4.63 to $14.94. Investors also took a dim view of Artic Cat's latest financial results, which included revenue that fell short of financial analysts' forecasts. Arctic Cat slid $2.40, or 6.8 percent, to $32.67.
MISSED THE MARK: Macy's said its profit slumped 13 percent in the first quarter as the department store chain faced delayed merchandise shipments from the West Coast port slowdown, severe winter weather and lower spending by international tourists. The latest results fell short of Wall Street's expectations. Shares in Macy's fell $1.37, or 2.1 percent, to $63.96.
SECTOR VIEW: Seven of the 10 sectors in the S&P 500 moved higher, with technology stocks notching the biggest gain. Utilities stocks declined the most. The sector is down 8.4 percent this year.
EUROPEAN ACTION: Economic growth in the 19 countries that use the euro was 0.4 percent in the first three months of the year. That was up from the 0.3 percent recorded in the previous three-month period and in line with most forecasts. The news helped lift European indexes. France's CAC 40 advanced 0.9 percent, while Germany's DAX added 0.4 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 rose 0.2 percent.
ASIA'S DAY: Weak Chinese figures added to signs the downturn in the world's second-largest economy is deepening. Retail sales growth slowed to 10 percent. The Shanghai Composite Index ended 0.6 percent lower, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 0.6 percent. Elsewhere in Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 closed up 0.7 percent and South Korea's Kospi gained 0.8 percent. Sydney's S&P ASX 200 rose 0.7 percent.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude gained 67 cents to $61.42 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
BONDS: Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.26 percent from 2.25 percent late Tuesday.