Stock Market Today: Dow Jumps 658 Points After Stellar Retail Sales Report

Retail sales were up 1% in June, while consumer sentiment edged higher in July.

two women with shopping bags walking outside
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Stocks made a valiant rebound attempt on Friday, spurred by a sign that consumers haven't thrown in the towel.

The Commerce Department this morning said retail sales rose 1% month-over-month in June. While most of the increase was a result of higher gas and food prices, Wall Street was still pleased that the figure marked an improvement over May's modest decline and came in above economists' consensus estimate for an increase of 0.9%.

"Spending was broad based and not just boosted by more money spent on gasoline," says Jeffrey Roach, chief economist for independent broker-dealer LPL Financial.

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"Given this report, the U.S. might actually post positive growth figures for Q2 and avoid two consecutive quarters of negative growth," Roach adds. "The Fed could try to use this data to support a larger-than-expected hike later this month. Right now, the Fed is focused on the data and if the consumer is stable enough, the Fed could indeed implement a large hike without breaking the economy."

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In other economic news, the University of Michigan's preliminary consumer sentiment survey for July rose to 51.1 from June's all-time-low reading of 50.0, while industrial production contracted 0.2% in June, its first month-over-month decline this year.

Financials (+3.4%) led the charge, as positive earnings reactions for Citigroup (C (opens in new tab), +13.12%) and Wells Fargo (WFC (opens in new tab), +6.2%) sparked a broad rally in bank stocks.

At the close, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (+2.2% at 31,288), S&P 500 Index (+1.9 at 3,863) and Nasdaq Composite (+1.8% at 11,452) were all higher. However, on a weekly basis, all three major benchmarks ended lower.

Other news in the stock market today:

  • The small-cap Russell 2000 soared 2.2% to 1,744.
  • U.S. crude futures rose 1.9% to settle at $97.59 per barrel.
  • Gold futures gave back 0.1% to finish at $1,703.60 an ounce.
  • Bitcoin continued to bounce, gaining 2.6% to $21,138.36. (Bitcoin trades 24 hours a day; prices reported here are as of 4 p.m.)
  • UnitedHealth Group (UNH (opens in new tab)) was the best Dow Jones stock today, jumping 5.4% after earnings. In the second quarter, UNH reported earnings of $5.57 per share on revenue of $80.3 billion, beating analysts' consensus estimates for earnings of $5.20 per share on $79.7 billion in sales. "Encouragingly, UNH's medical care ratio edged down 50 basis points quarter-over-quarter to 81.5% as COVID-19 activity moderated and should support improved profitability over time," says CFRA Research analyst David Holt, who maintained a Strong Buy rating on the stock. "We think UNH enters the second half in a position of strength, with momentum in its shift to value-based care, especially with further integration of pharmacy-related services. UNH's capital positioning also remained strong in Q2, at $6.9B (1.3x net income), leaving ample flexibility to add physicians in Optum Health and maintain attractive shareholder returns via dividends and repurchases."
  • Pinterest (PINS (opens in new tab)) spiked 16.2% after a report in The Wall Street Journal (opens in new tab) indicated Elliott Management has built a more than 9% in the firm. The activist investor has had plenty of exposure to social media companies, having previously held positions in Twitter (TWTR (opens in new tab)) and eBay (EBAY (opens in new tab)).
  • Speaking of Twitter, the stock jumped 3.2% ahead of an appearance on next week's earnings calendar.

How to Choose a Mutual Fund

"Are we there yet?" That's the question many may be asking themselves right now following a first half in which inflation, the Fed tightening cycle and the stock market have taken us on a wild ride, say Carl Kaufman, Bradley Kane and Craig Manchuck, managers of the Osterweis Strategic Income Fund (OSTIX).

"Understandably, investors are anxiously awaiting better news – some tangible evidence we have 'arrived' at the bottom of whatever this is," they say. "The stakes are high, as the specter of recession looms over the economy while we try to figure out where we are, but sadly, the answers are not a simple yes or no."

Investors looking to find calm in the uncertainty might want to give the wheel to skilled, seasoned managers. There is no shortage of mutual funds to choose from, including Kiplinger's favorite low-cost offerings to fill just about every portfolio need. And while sifting through the onslaught of options available is one of the hardest parts of choosing a mutual fund, there are several steps to take to see what works best for you. Read on as we show you the best way to narrow the field.

Karee Venema
Contributing Editor, Kiplinger.com