NEW YORK – Stocks edged higher on Wall Street after a rally in retail stocks offset concerns about flaring tensions in Washington over increasing the country’s borrowing limit.
The Dow Jones industrial average ended the day up 27.57 points at 13,534.89. The Dow moved higher in the late afternoon after being down as much as 62 points in the early going.
The Standard and Poor’s 500 rose 1.66 points to 1,472.34, a five-year high. The Nasdaq composite index, dragged down by a fall in Apple, fell 6.72 points to 3,110.78.
Retail stocks moved higher throughout the day, boosted by a report that showed retail sales increased in December, helping the major indexes reverse early losses.
Consumers bought more autos, furniture and clothing, despite worries about potential tax increases, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. Sales rose 0.5 percent in December from November, slightly better than November’s 0.4 percent increase and the best showing since September.
J.C. Penney Co. rose 62 cents, or 3.4 percent, to $18.71. Dollar General gained $1.62, or 3.8 percent, to $44.64. Ford advanced 31 cents, or 2.2 percent, to $14.30.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told congressional leaders in a letter late Monday that the U.S. government will reach its borrowing limit as soon as mid-February, earlier than expected. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke also commented on the issue Monday, saying it was one of the “critical fiscal watersheds” for the government in coming weeks.
President Barack Obama has criticized congressional Republicans for linking talks about raising the debt ceiling to ongoing budget negotiations. Obama said the consequences of the U.S. government defaulting on its debt would be disastrous and shouldn’t be used as a bargaining chip to extract concessions on spending cuts.
“We are very concerned how the market is going to respond to all the news events that will be coming out of Washington over the next few months,” said Eric Wiegand, a senior portfolio manager at U.S. Bank Wealth Management. “It really comes down to the uncertainty and the risk of a further downgrade of our debt.”