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Stocks higher...Retail sales gains...Businesses boost stockpiles...Citigroup earnings up

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NEW YORK (AP) — A pickup in retail sales is encouraging investors this morning, and stocks have started the day on the rise. The Dow was up about 80 points, while the Nasdaq had gained 25 and the S&P 500 was up more than 10 points in the first hour of trading. The S&P is coming off a rough week during which it lost 2.7 percent.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The latest retail sales figures suggest the economy is gaining momentum after struggling through a harsh winter. The Commerce Department says retail sales rose 1.1 percent in March, the best showing since September 2012. The gains were led by sales of autos, furniture as well as sales at general merchandise stores, like Wal-Mart and Target.

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. businesses have been boosting stockpiles as sales rebound. The Commerce Department says stockpiles increased 0.4 percent in February following a similar increase in January. That came as sales rose 0.8 percent in February, bouncing back from a 1.1 percent January decline blamed on the winter's snow and cold.

NEW YORK (AP) — Citigroup is reporting a better-than-expected increase in its first-quarter earnings. The bank made $4.1 billion in the first quarter, after stripping out the effects of an accounting change and a tax item. That was up 2.5 percent from the same period last year. Citi got a boost from improving results in its Citi Holdings unit, which is selling off assets such as mortgages that soured in the financial crisis.

GENEVA (AP) — The World Trade Organization predicts global commerce will grow 4.7 percent this year and 5.3 percent next year. Such an improvement would bring world trade back in line with its historic average. The figures reflect growing confidence that developed countries have recovered from the economic crisis that caused global trade to slump in 2009.

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