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Stocks move higher on stronger retail sales report

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By Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — An upbeat report on retail sales is giving stocks a boost.

All three major indexes moved higher Tuesday after the Commerce Department reported that retail sales rose for the fifth straight month in November. The biggest jump in department store sales in two years gave the holiday shopping season a strong start. Total retail sales increased 0.8 percent in November following a 1.7 percent gain in October.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Target Corp. and Amazon.com were all up less than 1 percent in morning trading.

Investors were also encouraged after the Senate voted late Monday to advance the nearly $900 billion tax-cut legislation toward final passage. A vote that would send the proposal to the House is expected Tuesday.

Separately, the government reported that wholesale prices rose by the largest amount in eight months in November due to a large increase in the cost of energy. But there was little sign of inflation excluding the volatile energy and food segments. That showed that the weak economy is keeping prices in check.

A survey from the Business Roundtable, an association of CEOs of big U.S. companies, also showed that 45 percent of executives say they expect their companies to add more workers over the next six months. That's the highest percentage since the survey began in late 2002.

"The economy is beginning to feel more stable than it has been," said Anthony Conroy, managing director and head trader for BNY ConvergEx Group.

In morning trading, the Dow Jones industrial average rose 19.53, or 0.2 percent, to 11,448.09 The Standard and Poor's 500 index rose 2.48, or 0.2 percent, to 1,242.94. The Nasdaq composite index rose 2.54, or 0.1 percent, at 2,627.45.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and his colleagues are gathering Tuesday for their last scheduled meeting of 2010. No policy changes are expected. But Fed policymakers will examine the effectiveness of their $600 billion bond-buying program and discuss the implications of a tax-cut plan emerging from Congress.

In corporate news, shares of Best Buy Co. fell 14.5 percent to $35.65 after the retailer said its third-quarter net income fell more than expected as it lost sales of TVs and mobile devices to competitors. It also cut its full-year outlook.

Shares of HCP Inc., a real estate investment trust that owns and operates health facilities, rose 2.9 percent to $33.46 after the company said it will buy all the real estate assets of HCR ManorCare for $6.1 billion in cash and stock. HCR runs more than 300 rehabilitation and nursing facilities.

The dollar rose 0.1 percent against an index of six other currencies. Treasury prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, rose to 3.35 percent from 3.28 percent late Monday.