* U.S. retail sales unexpectedly fall; jobless claims rise * U.S. stocks manage gains, but Cisco falls * European stocks dip * Italy's Letta announces resignation after market close * Bond prices gain By Caroline Valetkevitch NEW YORK, Feb 13 World stock markets were nearly flat on Thursday as soft U.S. economic data was blamed on bad weather, while the dollar fell to a two-week low against the euro. U.S. stocks rose, with big gains in technology stocks, putting the Nasdaq on track for a sixth straight session of gains, its longest winning streak since December 2011. Unseasonably cold and snowy weather hurt U.S. retail sales, considered a gauge of consumer spending. Sales fell unexpectedly in January, while other data showed more Americans filed for jobless benefits last week. Large parts of the United States have been gripped by freezing temperatures and snow storms, which caused investors to largely discount both the day's and other recent weak data that suggested the economy started the year on weaker footing. "We understand the impact the weather is having, and we expect the economy is going to perk up when we get some more seasonal weather in the second quarter. Autos will come back, housing will come back," said Phil Orlando, chief equity strategist at Federated Investors in New York. "That's the reason why I think the S&P 500 is up right now in the face of at least on the surface what was a disastrous retail sales report." On Thursday, the eastern United States was in the grip of another deadly winter storm that began late Wednesday. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 67.88 points, or 0.43 percent, to 16,031.82; the S&P 500 gained 9.69 points, or 0.53 percent, to 1,828.95; and the Nasdaq Composite added 32.513 points, or 0.77 percent, to 4,233.801. Comcast Corp <CMCSA.O said it would buy Time Warner Cable Inc for $45.2 billion in an all-stock deal that combines the two largest U.S. cable operators. Time Warner Cable shares rose 7.1 percent to $144.94 while Comcast shed 3.8 percent to $53.13. Shares of Charter Communications Inc, which had also pursued Time Warner Cable, fell 6.1 percent to $129.12. The broad MSCI All-Country World Index was up 0.2 percent, reversing earlier losses, while MSCI's index of emerging market stocks was down 0.8 percent. In Europe, shares dipped as losses in Italy weighed on the market due to political uncertainty there that raised worries about efforts to turn around Italy's sputtering economy. However, after the market close, Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta said he would tender his resignation on Friday, opening the way for center-left leader Matteo Renzi to take the helm. European stocks snapped a week-long winning streak, with the pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index ending down 0.1 percent. Shares of Swiss food group Nestle fell 1.5 percent after the company said it may undershoot its long-term growth targets again this year. In the foreign exchange market, the dollar fell to a two-week low against the euro and slid against other major currencies, after the day's U.S. economic data. U.S. bond prices rose following two days of losses. The euro rallied against the dollar, to $1.3694, its strongest level since Jan. 27, before trimming gains to trade 0.55 percent higher on the day, at $1.3681. Benchmark 10-year Treasuries were up 9/32 in price to yield 2.73 percent. On Wall Street, a disappointing outlook from Cisco Systems limited gains. Cisco shares fell 3.7 percent to $22.01. OIL PRICES END LOWER Oil prices ended the session lower, though Brent's losses were limited by a report from the International Energy Agency that developed world inventories fell by 137 million barrels at the end of last year, for the steepest quarterly decline since 1999. Brent crude oil futures fell 6 cents to settle at $108.73 a barrel while U.S. crude oil dipped 2 cents to settle at $100.35. In the precious metals market, gold rose to a three-month high, targeting a break above $1,300 after the disappointing U.S. retail sales data weighed on the dollar. Spot gold was last up 0.5 percent at $1,296.69 an ounce. It rose to $1,299.50, its highest since Nov. 8 earlier.
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