Consumer stocks were in focus as US equities ticked up and investors took positions ahead of the winter shopping season.

The consumer discretionary sector was one of the strongest areas of the S&P 500, rising 0.79 per cent despite weakness from video game retailer Gamestop.

Gamestop reported third-quarter earnings per share and revenue that narrowly beat estimates but investors were turned off by fourth-quarter guidance that came in below consensus.

Shares in the company were off 6.9 per cent to $48.80, the sharpest decline on the S&P.

The release of new video game consoles from Sony and Microsoft has boosted expectations for the company, which makes the bulk of its revenue from video game sales.

Despite the drop, Gamestop shares remain up 94.5 per cent on the year to date.

Gamestop’s fall was offset by Johnson Controls, which added 4.4 per cent to $50.34 and was the best performing stock on the S&P.

The manufacturing group cheered investors with news that the company’s board had approved a dividend increase to 22 cents per share from 16 cents per share and an additional $3bn share buyback.

The financials sector was 1.5 per cent higher, helping to boost the S&P 500 0.8 per cent to 1,795.85.

While US equity markets ticked down earlier this week on concerns that the Fed had indicated a forthcoming taper of its quantitative easing programme, news that the Senate banking committee had approved Ms Yellen’s nomination as chair of the Federal Reserve boosted hopes for continued aid to the markets.

Ms Yellen’s nomination will now be subject to a full Senate vote, which is expected to succeed.

The news coincided with buying of shares in some of the largest US banks, including Bank of America, up 3 per cent to $15.59, JPMorgan Chase, 2 per cent higher to $57.22, Wells Fargo, rising 1.1 per cent to $44.08, and Citigroup, better by 1.9 per cent to $51.73.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.7 per cent to 16,009.99 and the Nasdaq Composite index rose 1.2 per cent to 3,969.16.

Target was also among the retailers hit by a poor earnings report after the company filed third-quarter earnings per share of 54 cents, below expectations and well off the 96 cents per share from the same period last year. Target shares finished down 3.5 per cent to $64.19

Discount retailer Dollar Tree also moved lower, off 4.5 per cent to $56.28 on a poor earnings report. Third-quarter earnings per share of 58 cents missed expectations along with a decline in revenue.

Clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch also suffered a drop in earnings but beat estimates, as shares were almost unchanged on the day at $34.97.

Health technology firm Hologic gained 1.9 per cent to $22.71 after reports that a filing showed that activist investor Carl Icahn had taken a position in the company.

The news prompted Hologic to introduce a stockholder rights plan – more commonly known as a poison pill – to guard it from a takeover attempt.

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters was one of the biggest gainers on the day, up 14.1 per cent to $70.57. The maker of single-serving coffee systems beat expectations for earnings and revenue and also announced a $1bn share buyback programme.

While optimism for the global economy drove some shares higher, concern about tepid demand for oil hit Transocean, which said on Thursday that more than one-third of its ocean rigs would be looking for work. Investors sent Transocean shares down 2.9 per cent to $52.38.

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