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Solid earnings from major US retailers drive stocks higher

U.S. stocks marched broadly higher in early trading Wednesday as investors welcomed a batch of strong earnings reports from several big retailers.

Target and Lowe’s surged, leading a rally in retail stocks, as the market bounced back from its first loss in four days. Technology companies accounted for a big share of the market’s gains. Microsoft gained 1.3% and Apple rose 1.2%.

Health care stocks also climbed. Merck rose 1.1%.

Financial stocks rose as bond prices fell, pushing yields higher. American Express picked up 1.1%. Real estate and utilities lagged the rest of the market.

The rally came ahead of the afternoon release of the minutes from the Federal Reserve’s latest interest rate policy meeting. Investors will be seeking insight into the Fed’s willingness to make further interest rate cuts to help shore up the economy. The Fed lowered interest rates by a quarter-point at its last meeting, the first cut in a decade.

The stock market has been volatile this month as investors try to parse conflicting signals on the U.S. economy and determine whether a recession is on the way. A key concern is that the U.S.-Chinese tariff war will weigh on global economic growth.

KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 was up 0.8% as of 10:10 a.m. Eastern Time. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 236 points, or 0.9%, to 26,199. The Nasdaq added 1%.

Major indexes in Europe also headed broadly higher.

ON TARGET: After mixed results from retailers on Tuesday, Target soared 19% after easily beating profit forecasts for its second quarter as it pushes faster delivery and invests heavily in new private label brands.

MUCH IMPROVED: Lowe’s jumped 11.6% after the home improvement retailer’s latest quarterly results blew past expectations, buoyed by strong demand for spring goods and sales to contractors. The company’s strong quarter came even as it wrestled with lower lumber prices and rough spring weather.

Lowe’s solid earnings came a day after rival Home Depot reported strong results of its own. Home Depot added 1%.

LOOKING SLICK: Urban Outfitters climbed 6.9% after the company reported improving trends throughout its latest quarter.

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