Stocks edge higher after retail spending increases

FILE - In this Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013, file photo, specialists John Alatzas, left, and William Geier, right, work at their posts on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. World stocks were dimmed Wednesday Nov. 20, 2013 by a weaker outlook for global growth. Markets also braced for the release of Fed minutes that could spark a new wave of speculation about when the central bank will reduce its monetary stimulus. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are higher on Wall Street as investors react to a surprisingly big increase in U.S. retail sales last month and quarterly results from J.C. Penney and other retailers.

Investors were also waiting for minutes from the Federal Reserve's October policy meeting, which will be out later Wednesday afternoon.

The Dow Jones industrial average was up nine points, or 0.1 percent, to 15,976 as of noon Eastern. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index was up three points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,791. The Nasdaq composite rose 13 points, or 0.3 percent, to 3,945.

J.C. Penney led the S&P 500 index higher with an 8 percent gain after reporting its first monthly sales increase since December 2011.

Lowe's lost 5 percent after its earnings fell short of analysts' forecasts.