NEW YORK - Good news on U.S. retail sales lifted the stock market Thursday, although worries about the latest plunge in oil prices kept the gains in check.
Investors are caught between conflicting thoughts. The improving U.S. economy, lower energy costs, and higher consumer spending are expected to boost profits for many companies. But the drop in oil prices, which has accelerated in recent days, has investors worried that earnings for energy companies will suffer.
Stocks are on pace to post their first weekly loss in nearly two months.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 63.19 points, or 0.36 percent, to 17,596.34. It was up 225 points earlier.
The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 9.19 points, or 0.45 percent, to 2,035.33 and the Nasdaq composite rose 24.14 points, or 0.52 percent, to 4,708.16.
Companies that largely rely on spending by consumers rose the most Thursday. The S&P 500 consumer discretionary sector, a category that includes department stores and other retailers, gained 0.7 percent, while makers of consumer staples increased 0.8 percent.
Philadelphia-based Urban Outfitters, along with GameStop, Coach, Best Buy, and Macy's were among the biggest gainers. Urban rose 7.6 percent, or $2.28, to $32.29.
The rise came after the Commerce Department said retail sales rose by 0.7 percent in November.
Falling gasoline prices led to a decline of 0.8 percent in sales at gas stations, but that money was likely spent elsewhere, investors said.
Oil fell 99 cents to close at $59.95 a barrel, its first time below $60 a barrel in more than five years. It's down sharply from its recent high of $107 a barrel in June.
Oil drillers and drilling equipment suppliers were among the biggest decliners. Nabors Industries fell 34 cents, or 3 percent, to $10.51. Transocean lost 37 cents, or 2 percent, to $17.02. Chesapeake Energy fell 43 cents, or 2.5 percent, to $16.71.
Among individual companies, Lending Club, a peer-to-peer lending platform, rose $8.43, or 56 percent, to $23.43 on its first day of trading. Lending Club's initial public offering priced at $15 a share on Wednesday night, above the estimated range.
The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note held at 2.17 percent. The dollar rose 1.4 percent against the yen to 118.98 yen. The euro fell 0.7 percent to $1.2395.
February gold fell $3.80 to $1,225.60 an ounce, March silver fell eight cents to $17.11 an ounce and March copper rose three cents to $2.92 a pound.