NEW YORK, May 18 ― Wall Street finished sharply higher yesterday, lifted by Apple, Tesla and other megacap growth stocks after strong retail sales in April eased worries about slowing economic growth.

Ten of the 11 major S&P sector indexes advanced, with financials, materials, consumer discretionary and technology all gaining more than 2 per cent.

Investors were cheered by data showing US retail sales increased 0.9 per cent in April as consumers bought motor vehicles amid an improvement in supply and frequented restaurants.

Recently punished shares of Microsoft Corp, Apple Inc, Tesla Inc and Amazon gained between 2 per cent and 5.1 per cent, driving the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq higher.

Yesterday's broad rally followed weeks of selling on the US stock market that last week saw the S&P 500 sink to its lowest level since March 2021.

“The largest pockets of stocks that investors tend to buy have been essentially beaten up. They're either in correction or bear market territory,” said Sylvia Jablonski, chief investment officer of Defiance ETF. “I think investors are looking at these opportunities to buy on the dip, and I suspect that today is a good day to do that.”

The S&P 500 Banks index jumped 3.8 per cent, with Citigroup climbing almost 8 per cent after Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway disclosed a nearly US$3 billion (RM13.2 billion) investment in the US lender.

Another set of economic data showed industrial production accelerated 1.1 per cent last month, higher than estimates of 0.5 per cent, and faster than a 0.9 per cent advance in March.

“This is consistent with continued economic growth in the second quarter and not a recession underway,” said Bill Adams, chief economist for Comerica Bank in Dallas.

The US Federal Reserve will “keep pushing” to tighten US monetary policy until it is clear inflation is declining, Fed Chair Jerome Powell said at an event yesterday.

Traders are pricing in an 85 per cent chance of a 50-basis point rate hike in June.

The S&P 500 climbed 2.02 per cent to end the session at 4,088.85 points.

The Nasdaq gained 2.76 per cent to 11,984.52 points, while Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 1.34 per cent to 32,654.59 points.

Underscoring Wall Street's recent volatility, the S&P 500 has gained or lost 2 per cent or more in a session some 39 times so far in 2022, compared to 24 times in all of 2021.

Walmart Inc tumbled 11.4 per cent after the retail giant cut its annual profit forecast, signalling a hit to its margins. That marked the biggest one-day percentage drop for Walmart's stock since 1987.

Retailers Costco, Target and Dollar Tree fell between 0.8 per cent and 3.2 per cent.

United Airlines Holdings Inc gained 7.9 per cent after the carrier lifted its current-quarter revenue forecast, boosting shares of Delta Air, American Airlines and Spirit Airlines.

A positive first-quarter earnings season has been overshadowed by worries about the conflict in Ukraine, soaring inflation, Covid-19 lockdowns in China and aggressive policy tightening by central banks.

The S&P 500 is down about 14 per cent so far in 2022, and the Nasdaq is off around 23 per cent, hit by tumbling growth stocks.

US-listed Chinese stocks jumped on hopes that China will ease its crackdown on the technology sector.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 2.92-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 3.19-to-1 ratio favoured advancers.

The S&P 500 posted one new 52-week high and 30 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 24 new highs and 126 new lows.

Volume on US exchanges was 12.0 billion shares, compared with a 13.3 billion average over the last 20 trading days. ― Reuters