March 13 - Summary of business headlines: Blue chips extend record run after stronger-than-expected retail sales data; J.C. Penney CFO says he, nor CEO, leaving; Netflix jumps as investors see movie streaming service as blockbuster hit. Conway G. Gittens reports.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average does something it has only done 42 times in its 117-year history - rising for the ninth straight session. And every gain produces a new record close - this time it's 14,455. The S&P 500 edges closer to a record and the Nasdaq gains 2 points. February retail sales add to a string of data showing the U.S. economy gathering steam. Sales rose to a five-month high last month. The so-called core reading, which excludes automobiles, gasoline and building materials, also jumped more than expected . This U.S. consumer is not running away from the mall despite rising gasoline prices and the return of the payroll tax, notes Joe Welter, retail leader at Deloitte. SOUNDBITE: JOE WELTER, RETAIL LEADER, DELOITTE (ENGLISH) SAYING "Maybe they are looking at better job opportunities, some growth, even looking in the stock market, real estate prices, feeling like they've got a little more equity in their homes. So they are feeling a little bit more confident. We are seeing that and I think that's kind of found its way to the retail sales side." That strength suggests economists may have to raise their economic forecasts, but not enough to change expectations for the Federal Reserve to keep on stimulating the economy. One retailer not benefitting from the shopping pick-up is J.C. Penney. But the company's CEO and CFO are not stepping down. Chief Financial Officer Ken Hannah says management needs more time to get it right. But speculation is growing of a needed management shake-up after turnaround plans fail to turn things around. Netflix was a bigger mover. The company announced plans to allow subscribers to share streaming movie watching habits with their Facebook friends. The plan is the latest in a string of upbeat news for Netflix, including a rise in subscribers and a number of content deals. Shares of Netflix are up over 100 percent since the start of the year as investors bet the tide has shifted in Netflix's favor. In Europe, Ireland returns to the debt market for the first time since getting a bailout. Borrowing costs have fallen significantly. As for equities - there were small moves in Germany and France, but a 29 point drop in the U.K.