Stocks are rising in early trading after retail sales unexpectedly rose in February, raising hopes that the economy may be gaining momentum.
The Commerce Department said retail sales rose 0.3 percent last month. Analysts had expected sales to decline by 0.2 percent.
Higher consumer spending is vital to the recovery because it accounts for about 70 percent of economic activity. Economists cautioned, though, that any spending increases could falter as unemployment weighs on a sustained recovery.
The Dow Jones industrial average is up 20.33, or 0.2 percent, at 10,632.17. The Standard & Poor's 500 index is up 2.69, or 0.2 percent, at 1,152.93, while the Nasdaq composite index is up 6.16, or 0.3 percent, at 2,374.62.