After digesting a slew of economic data, the stock market edges higher in the afternoon session as big banks and apparel retailers emerge as market leaders.

The S&P 500 Index rose 0.39 points, or 0.03 percent, to trade at 1,119.18 at 1:53 pm.  The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 16.32 points, or 0.16 percent, to trade at 10,413.08.

U.S. retailers Thursday reported better than expected sales data for February.  Apparel retailers performed notably well.

For same-store sales, Abercrombie & Fitch (NYSE:ANF) reported a 5 percent increase.  Its stock is trading up 12.56 percent.

Ross (NASDAQ:ROST) reported an 11 percent increase.  Its shares are up 3.26 percent.  Aeropostale (NYSE:ARO), whose shares are up 6.62 percent, report a 7 percent increase in same-store sales.

Wall Street firms are among the leaders of the rally.  Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) is up 3.12 percent, Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS) is up 2.08 percent, and Citigroup (NYSE:C) is up 1.62 percent.  JPMorgan (NYSE:JPM) lags with a gain of 0.67 percent. 

Investment banking showed recovery in 2009.  Bloomberg reported Thursday that total fees for all firms rose to $59.8 billion, up 13 percent from 2008. 

JPMorgan ranked number 1 for the second year in a row, earning $4.97 billion.  Goldman Sachs followed with $4.56 billion in fees. 

Earlier in the trading session, better than expected unemployment claims and factory orders were reported while the pending home sales report was worse than expected. 

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