Stocks Up After Spending,Sales Reports

(AP) -- U.S. stocks are rising after the government reported that prices paid by consumers increased in February, a sign of potentially stronger economic growth. Retail sales also improved last month. The Federal Reserve is widely expected to raise interest rates Wednesday afternoon and investors are waiting to hear the central bank's views on the state of the economy and its plans for interest rates.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 5 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,370 as of 10:19 a.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 36 points, or 0.2 percent, to 20,872. The Nasdaq composite picked up 2 points, less than 0.1 percent, to 5,858. The Russell 2000 index of small-company stocks gained 6 points, or 0.5 percent, to 1,368.

Trading has mostly been quiet recently as investors wait to see what the Federal Reserve does and hear its views on how the economy is doing. Investors and analysts think the Fed will raise interest rates this afternoon for just the third time in 15 months.

ECONOMY: Government reports showed the economy remains in solid shape. The Labor Department said consumer prices rose at a slower pace in February as clothing and housing costs rose and car and gasoline prices fell. However consumer prices have grown more than 2 percent over the last year, excluding the costs of food and energy. That's above the 2 percent target set by the Federal Reserve.

The Commerce Department said retail sales inched 0.1 percent higher in February and it said sales in January were better than it previously believed. However delays in tax return payments be holding spending back somewhat.

CALL GOES THROUGH: Regulators in the European Union approved AT&T's offer to buy Time Warner for $85 billion. They said the companies don't compete in the European Economic Area. Authorities in the U.S. have yet to sign off on the deal. AT&T added 12 cents to $42.21 and Time Warner gained 8 cents to $98.44.

SWEET: Hostess Brands rose after it gave solid forecasts for 2017. The Twinkie maker filed for bankruptcy protection in 2012 and was acquired by private equity firm Gores Group in the middle of last year. It's now public again, and was combined with Superior Cake Products. Its stock rose 42 cents, or 2.7 percent, to $16.35.

BONDS: Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.58 percent from 2.60 percent.

ENERGY: Oil prices bounced higher after a slump driven by oversupply concerns. Benchmark U.S. crude rose 63 cents, or 1.3 percent, to $48.35 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, which is used to price international oils, added 62 cents, or 1.2 percent, to $51.54 a barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar remained at 114.72 yen and the euro slipped to $1.0616 from $1.0632.

OVERSEAS: In Britain the FTSE 100 index rose 0.1 percent. Germany's DAX was flat and the CAC 40 in France was 0.1 percent higher. Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 stock index lost 0.2 percent and South Korea's Kospi was little changed. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong edged 0.2 percent lower.

(KA)