NEW YORK Stocks rose on Friday, putting the S&P on track for back-to-back weekly gains for the first time since early July, led by optimism the euro zone will continue to make progress on a solution to its debt crisis.
French and German officials are trying to put flesh on the bones of a crisis resolution plan in time for a European Union summit on October 23.
Investors weren't deterred by Standard and Poor's cut to Spain's credit rating on Friday, a move that underlined the challenges facing Europe's finance ministers as they prepare to meet counterparts from the Group of 20 nations over the euro area's debt crisis.
"It's this G20 meeting they are having in Paris today and tomorrow, just getting the details of this plan out there and making the details work is the most important thing," said John Canally, investment strategist and economist for LPL Financial in Boston.
Adding to the positive tone, U.S. Commerce Department data showed September retail sales rose 1.1 percent from a month earlier, beating the median forecast in a Reuters poll for a 0.7 percent rise. Sales growth during August was revised upward to 0.3 percent.
"The data hasn't mattered for a couple of months. It matters here and there, but most of what today is, is Europe."
The recent rally since the S&P 500 briefly hit bear market territory on an intraday basis on October 4 has pushed the benchmark index near 1,220, a key resistance point it's been unable to cross since early August.
The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI gained 112.73 points, or 0.98 percent, to 11,590.86. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index .SPX.INX rose 14.97 points, or 1.24 percent, to 1,218.63. The Nasdaq Composite Index .IXIC climbed 33.31 points, or 1.27 percent, to 2,653.55.
Consumers remained pessimistic, despite the growth in retail spending. The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan's preliminary reading on the overall index on consumer sentiment sagged to 57.5 from 59.4 the month before. It fell short of the median forecast of 60.2 among economists polled by Reuters.
"We continue to want to watch what people spend and do rather than what they say, so consumer sentiment is at 30-year lows, but they are spending like it's 1999. That is just the dichotomy that is going on out there," said Canally.
Google Inc (GOOG.O) led the Nasdaq higher as shares jumped 6.1 percent to $593.13 after its results late on Thursday trounced Wall Street expectations, helped by strong advertising sales and deft cost controls.
The Labor Department said overall import prices increased 0.3 percent, after falling 0.2 percent in August. Economists polled by Thomson Reuters had expected prices to drop 0.3 percent last month.
(Editing by Padraic Cassidy)