As of 1:15 p.m. EDT, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) is up 98 points (0.74%) to 13,428. The S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) is up 10 points (0.69%) to 1,438.

There were two U.S. economic releases this morning, which proved mixed for stocks.

Report

Period

Result

Previous

Retail sales

September

1.1%

1.2%

Inventories

August

0.6%

1.1%

Source: MarketWatch U.S. Economic Calendar.

The first economic release was the U.S. Department of Commerce's advance report on monthly retail and food-service sales. Retail sales rose 1.1% in September. That's slightly slower than August's 1.2% rise but better than analyst expectations of 0.9%. Year over year, retail sales are up 5.3%.

The second economic release was the Manufacturing and Trade Inventories and Sales report, which showed that inventories rose 0.6%. That's down from July's 1.1% growth in inventories. The slowing growth in inventories reflects the strengthening retail sales, as higher sales leads to less product on store shelves.

The U.S. markets are up on the news, and a few stocks are leading the Dow's rise.

Today's Dow Leaders
Today's Dow leader is Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) up 2.19% ($0.20) to $9.32. The banking sector is up after Citigroup (NYSE:C) reported earnings this morning that beat analyst expectations, pushing shares up 5%. Bank of America rose on the news. The company reports earnings on Wednesday, and analysts expect it to report earnings per share of -$0.07 and revenue of $22 billion. Fool analyst John Maxfield believes Bank of America is the Dow's best stock. He recently took an in-depth look at Bank of America and identified the three biggest risks to the bank. Click here for his take.

Second for the day is Merck (NYSE:MRK) up 1.84% ($0.85) to $46.46. Over the weekend, Merck reported promising results from a Phase 2 drug trial for its new osteoporosis drug, odanacatib. The findings were released at the annual meeting of the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research. The pharmaceutical sector has been on fire for the past few months, crushing the S&P 500's 4% rise. Fool analyst Seth Jayson recently took a look at Merck's earnings and concluded that they are outstanding. Click here for his take.

Dan Dzombak can be found on his Facebook page, he holds no position in any company mentioned. Click here and like his Facebook page to follow his investing articles. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.