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Stocks higher on better-than-expected retail sales; GameStop slammed after cutting outlook; J.P. Morgan and Wells Fargo kick off Q4 bank earnings

Stocks pushed higher after the commerce department reported better-than-expected retail sales for December, up 0.2% versus estimates of 0.0%. Core sales, excluding the more volatile food and auto sectors, were up 0.7% for the biggest gain in almost a year. In contrast, GameStop (GME) lowered its earnings estimate for the holiday quarter and the full year, citing a sharp decline in games for older video game systems. The company now expects to post quarterly income of $1.85 to $1.95, below the November forecast of $1.97 to $2.14 a share. GameStop also cut its outlook for the full year to $2.96 to $3.06 from previous estimates of $3.08 to $3.25. GameStop shares were hammered after the news, down 19%.

J.P. Morgan Chase (JPM) and Wells Fargo (WFC) kicked off the busy bank earnings season with no surprises, coming in close to analysts’ estimates. Wells Fargo beat estimates by two cents. J.P. Morgan beat when one-time items like the Madoff settlement were excluded. The reports are the first in a busy week for bank earnings, with Bank of America (BAC) reporting before the bell Wednesday, and Goldman Sachs (GS), Citigroup (C) and Morgan Stanley (MS) later in the week.

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