Wall Street closes higher

Investors shrug off weak retail numbers, push Dow back above 16,000

United States stocks closed higher, reversing losses in late afternoon trade as investors overlooked disappointing retail sales report and soft weekly jobless claims numbers.

Stocks started the day in the red but turned around as investors took heart from news of cable operator Comcast's $US45.2 billion ($A50 billion) acquisition of Time Warner Cable.

Investors were also betting that recent soft data in the US could see the Federal Reserve push back the timing of reductions to its bond-buying program.

At the closing bell, the Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 63.65 points, or 0.40%, to 16,027.59.

The broad-based S&P 500 gained 10.57 points, or 0.58%, to 1,829.83, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index added 39.38 points, or 0.94%, to 4,240.67.

All three indices were down around half a per cent in the first hour of trade.

The Commerce Department said US retail sales fell 0.4% in January in the second straight monthly decline. Retail sales fell 0.1% in December after a revision from previous estimates of 0.2% expansion.

In other data news, weekly jobless claims rose to 339,000, from 331,000 last week, against expectations for a slight fall.

The weak readings helped gold climb to a three-month high.

In company news, Comcast unveiled a $US45.2 billion proposed acquisition of Time Warner in an all-stock deal that would combine the top two US cable TV companies.

Comcast shares fell 3.8% in early trade, while Time Warner Cable jumped 6.8%.

Meanwhile, PepsiCo announced a lift in fourth quarter profits along with fast food chain Burger King. PepsiCo shares fell 2.9% on the news, while Burger King stock climbed 1.3%.