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Industrial stocks led gainers, with Snap-on, which makes hand tools, and United Rentals among shares posting increases.
Both companies posted stronger-than-expected earnings in the recently completed quarter.
Two highly anticipated IPOs boosted investor sentiment.
Videoconferencing firm Zoom, which has turned a profit, began trading at roughly 70 percent over its offer price, and social media platform Pinterest, which has not yet posted a profit, began trading at more than 20 percent of its offer price.
|ZM||ZOOM VIDEO COMMUNICATIONS INC||91.63||-2.24||-2.39%|
The Commerce Department said U.S. retail sales rose 1.6 percent at the fastest pace since September 2017. For example, sales at gas stations rose 3.5 percent last month, auto sales climbed 3.1 percent and apparel sales were up 2 percent.
In addition, weekly jobless claims came in at a 50-year low.
Health care stocks struggled. Pfizer and Centene paced decliners. Earlier this week, UnitedHealth's CEO said that Democratic Party proposals like Medicare for All could destabilize the nation's health care system and hit insurance company profits.
|JNJ||JOHNSON & JOHNSON||127.73||-3.54||-2.70%|
|MRK||MERCK & CO. INC.||84.94||-1.78||-2.05%|
A purchasing managers index from Germany edged up but remained in negative territory and was lower than expected.
The news follows a report the day before from China that showed the world's second-largest economy grew at a robust and better-than-expected rate in the first three months of the year.
|I:DJI||DOW JONES AVERAGES||25628.9||-623.34||-2.37%|
|I:COMP||NASDAQ COMPOSITE INDEX||7751.765644||-239.62||-3.00%|
Wall Street was keeping a close eye on signs of progress in U.S.-China trade talks. Earlier this week, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said the U.S. is continuing to make good progress “on all the key points” in its trade negotiations with China.
“We continue to make very good progress across the board,” he told FOX Business’ Stuart Varney on Tuesday. “These are the largest in scope negotiations in U.S. China trade-relations history.”
The Dow Jones Industrial Average briefly hit its highest level since Oct. 5, 2018, on strength in financial and industrial stocks. Trading volumes were near their lowest levels in 2019.
U.S. markets do not open on Good Friday.
China’s Shanghai Composite closed down 0.40 percent, the Hang Seng was ended 0.54 percent and Japan’s Nikkei 225 fell 0.84 percent.
Britain’s FTSE 100 was down 0.08 percent, France’s CAC 40 rose 0.37 percent and Germany’s DAX increased 0.38 percent.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.