The Dow Jones industrial average extended its rally to a fifth day Tuesday on word of retail sales gains in February.
Retail rose 1.1 percent in the month compared to January and 6.5 percent compared to February 2011 on sales of $407.4 billion in the month, the Commerce Department said.
In early afternoon trading, the DJIA added 71.86 points or 0.55 percent to 13,031.57. The Standard & Poor's 500 index added 8.75 points or 0.64 percent to 1,379.84. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index gained 21.58 points or 0.72 points to 3,005.24.
The benchmark 10-year treasury note fell 11/32 to yield 2.078 percent.
The euro fell to $1.3077 from $1.3155. Against the yen, the dollar rose to 82.71 yen from 82.23 yen.
In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 index rose 0.09 percent, 37.04, to 9,899.08.
U.S. case against China rare-earth quotas
The United States will press its case at the World Trade Organization against China's restrictions on rare-earth exports, a U.S. official said.
The rare-earths, a collective name for 17 metals, are crucial in the manufacture of a host of items, from iPods, low-emission cars and computers to missiles, and China has 95 percent of the world's rare-earths.
The Obama administration, in the case to be filed jointly with Japan and the European Union, will seek WTO help in facilitating formal consultations with China about its limits on rare-earth exports, The Washington Post reported.
The trade case is expected to show China has a near-monopoly over such critically needed materials.
China has not been concerned about showing its dominance over the rare-earths market as happened in 2010 in a territorial dispute with Japan.
In that incident, the Post said China halted the shipment of anything with rare earths to Japan, causing a temporary panic among electronics manufacturers.
China lately has restricted its rare-earth exports, saying the substances are needed for domestic use. The United States planned to show such export restrictions give Chinese companies an unfair advantage, the Post quoted U.S. officials as saying.
Reacting immediately to the U.S. plans, China's official news agency Xinhua in a commentary Tuesday said the U.S. decision against its rare-earth export quotas "is likely to hurt bilateral trade ties and trigger a backlash from China instead of settling the rift."
Rents up, house prices down in U.S.
Rents are rising in the United States as former homeowners seek places to live and the job market picks up, experts say.
The tighter rental market comes at a time when home sale prices are dropping, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday. But it could be a sign of a turnaround in the housing market as investors buy foreclosed houses to convert to rental properties.
"Fundamentally, it is an issue of supply and demand," Stan Humphries, chief economist for the Web site Zillow told the Times. "The foreclosure crisis is essentially a giant engine converting owner households into rental households."
Between January 2011 and January 2012, rents rose an average of 3 percent across the country, while home prices dropped 4.6 percent, Zillow said.
There has been little new construction since the economic slump began, creating a shortage of available rental properties, the newspaper said.
Retail in February up 1.1 percent
Retail sales rose 1.1 percent in February over January, with motor vehicle sales up 1.6 percent, the U.S. Census Bureau said Tuesday.
Retail sales, including food service sales, adjusted for seasonal variations but not for prices rose to $407.8 billion on sales that were 6.5 percent higher than in February 2011, the bureau said in a release.
Gas station sales rose 3.3 percent in the month, while sales of apparel rose 1.8 percent. Electronics saw a 1 percent rise, while sales of furniture and home furnishings fell 1.2 percent.
Non-store retailers, including catalog and Internet sales, rose 1 percent in the month.
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