Retailers, tech lift U.S. stocks at the end of a strong week

Last Updated Nov 20, 2015 1:44 PM EST

NEW YORK - Big gains by retailers are lifting stocks in afternoon trading Friday as the market heads for its best week in more than a year. Nike soared after announcing a stock split, a dividend increase and a stock buyback program.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 72 points, or 0.4 percent, to 17,805 as of 3:21 p.m. ET. The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained six points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,087. The Nasdaq composite climbed 25 points, or 0.5 percent, to 5,099.

Discount retailer Ross Stores gained $4.07, or 8.8 percent, to $50.27 after reporting results that were better than analysts were expecting. Gap advanced $1.66, or 6.6 percent, to $26.75 after its own quarterly report, and Urban Outfitters rose $1.06, or 4.8 percent, to $23.35.

Retail stocks were pummeled this month after weak reports from Macy's and Nordstrom caused investors to worry that the holiday shopping season would be a bust.

"That spooked everybody that had some kind of apparel offering," said Ken Perkins, president of the research firm Retail Metrics.

But those fears are fading. Perkins said shoppers are looking for discounts and turning to lower-priced retailers like TJ Maxx and Ross Stores and to "fast fashion" retailers who keep up with the latest trends.

Health care stocks traded higher. Insurer Aetna rose $4.43, or 4.4 percent, to $104.132after it reaffirmed its annual profit forecast.

Irish drugmaker Allergan gained $9.47, or 3.1 percent, to $311.52. Allergan is in talks with competitor Pfizer about a possible sale, and its stock slipped Thursday on concerns that new Treasury Department rules that might block the deal. Allergan shares recovered on reports that the companies plan to go ahead with the combination.

The S&P 500 is on pace to rise 3.4 percent this week, which would be its biggest weekly gain since October 2014. The Dow turned positive for the year for the first time in two weeks.

"Throughout the week we got more and more news that the Federal Reserve was assessing the economy favorably," said Erik Davidson, chief investment officer at Wells Fargo Private Bank.

Davidson said investors have slowly gotten used to the idea that the Federal Reserve is going to raise interest rates. That prospect that worried them greatly a few months ago, but now, stocks are rising because investors are taking heart that the Fed believes the economy is on solid footing. Meanwhile, new economic stimulus in Europe could strengthen the global economy.

Nike said it will raise its dividend, buy back $12 billion of its own shares and split its stock. Nike, which has nearly tripled over the last five years, rose $5.96, or 4.7 percent, to $131.74.

TurboTax maker Intuit climbed after it reported strong quarterly revenue and gave a forecast for the current quarter that was better than analysts expected. The stock added $5.52, or 5.7 percent, to $102.95.

U.S. crude rose 6 cents to $40.60 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price international oils, rose $1.14, or 2.6 percent, to $45.32 a barrel in London. This week U.S. crude dipped under $40 a barrel for the first time in almost three months.

U.S. government bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.24 percent from 2.25 percent late Thursday. The euro fell to $1.0646 from $1.0731. The dollar dipped to 122.83 yen from 122.86 yen.