May 19, 2020 / 7:02 PM / 3 months ago

US STOCKS-S&P 500 edges higher after mixed retail earnings

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* Walmart posts strong Q1 results but gains fade

* Home Depot drops after results miss estimates

* Dow down 0.12%, S&P 500 up 0.26%, Nasdaq up 0.81% (Updates to mid-afternoon, changes byline)

By Chuck Mikolajczak

NEW YORK, May 19 (Reuters) - The S&P 500 edged up on Tuesday, taking a breather a day after its best one-day performance in six weeks, as investors attempted to glean information from a mixed bag of results from major retailers such as Walmart and Home Depot.

Home improvement chain Home Depot fell 1.59% after it missed quarterly profit estimates due to higher costs, while department store operator Kohl's Corp tumbled 4.94% after reporting a bigger-than-expected loss.

Walmart Inc, on the other hand, exceeded expectations for quarterly revenue and earnings as online sales soared as consumers stockpiled essentials in response to coronavirus lockdowns. Still, its shares were last down 1.19% after rising as much as 3.4% earlier.

"Everyone wants to take every retailer's report of being indicative of something, but at the same time staying open and doing stuff is good, it costs to do that," said Willie Delwiche, investment strategist at Baird in Milwaukee.

Advance Auto Parts climbed 5.21% after the company said same-store sales improved significantly at the start of the second quarter, helping to lift the S&P retailing index 1.33%.

Trillions of dollars in fiscal and monetary stimulus have helped the S&P 500 rebound nearly 35% from its March 23 intraday low. While the benchmark index is now less than 13% below its Feb. 19 closing record, gains have largely slowed in May on uncertainty over truly halting the spread of the coronavirus and allowing business to resume and rising U.S.-China tensions.

The benchmark index surged more than 3% on Monday, boosted by promising early-stage data for a potential COVID-19 vaccine and Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell's pledge over the weekend to support the economy as needed until the crisis has passed.

"You would expect consolidation, some give-back after the scale of the move we had yesterday and there is not much of that, so at the margin that is pretty bullish," said Delwiche.

Powell, in testimony to the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday, said the central bank was continuing to consider ways to accommodate additional borrowers, and that Congress should consider anything to keep people out of insolvency.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 30.68 points, or 0.12%, to 24,566.69, the S&P 500 gained 7.76 points, or 0.26%, to 2,961.67, and the Nasdaq Composite added 74.72 points, or 0.81%, to 9,309.55.

Consumer discretionary and tech were the best-performing sectors, while financials and energy lagged.

The NYSE Arca airline index advanced 1.33% as two top U.S. airlines said ticket cancellations were slowing and demand was showing signs of improvement since the pandemic brought global travel to a virtual standstill.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.44-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.25-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 11 new 52-week highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 55 new highs and six new lows. (Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by Leslie Adler) (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2020. Click For Restrictions - here ))

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