The financial sector saw the weakest performance of the session. American Express ( AXP) and Bank of America ( BAC) were the only Dow components to close in negative territory. Caterpillar ( CAT) and DuPont ( DD) finished at the top. Market breadth was clearly weighted to the positive. Of the 3.6 billion shares t traded on the New York Stock Exchange, 79% rose and only 19% declined. Some 1.7 billion stocks changed hands on the Nasdaq. The Dow, S&P 500, and Nasdaq have all rebounded by more than 10% from their intraday lows set on Oct. 4. The S&P 500 volatility index, the VIX, pulled back to around 30, suggesting that market nervousness has eased. Before Friday's opening bell, U.S. retail sales rose 1.1% in September, which was significantly stronger than the consensus call for a 0.7% increase. Sales rose only by 0.3% in August. The recent boost came from a spike in auto sales as well as broader gains in the clothing, restaurants and furniture industries. Stocks maintained gains even after the University of Michigan's consumer sentiment index came in weaker than expected. The index edged down to 57.5 in October from 59.4 in September, when economists had called for an increase to 60. Factors abroad continue to play a key role in setting the tone in the U.S. market. Discussions about stabilizing the eurozone are expected to ramp up as policy makers from the Group of 20 convene in Paris. Euro officials will also hold a summit on the debt crisis on Oct. 23. The meetings helped to mitigate downgrades of Spain's long-term debt by Standard & Poor's and a rating cut for UBS by Fitch Ratings. Overnight, China reported that inflation eased but remained above 6% for four straight months. Singapore eased its monetary policy, sparking fresh worries that slowing growth in the West may be hurting Asian economies. In a Friday research note, however, Deutsche Bank economists minimized those concerns. "Contrary to what appears to be the dominant view among investors, growth in Asia is not slowing precipitously. We don't see recession anywhere in the region," said Deutsche Bank's Peter Hooper, adding, "Instead we see growth continuing to decline gradually, bottoming out in early 2012." Hooper said advanced economies won't see the same growth rates they saw before the global financial crisis for some time and growth will be especially slow in the next few quarters "with the eurozone in recession until early 2012." "Slower growth should mean lower inflation, and we expect this will be most pronounced in commodity prices. Food price inflation globally has already fallen sharply, which should soon deliver slower food inflation in Asia. Our oil price forecasts similarly imply this source of inflation will virtually disappear." London's FTSE gained 1.1%, and Germany's DAX advanced 0.9%. Japan's Nikkei Average finished down 0.85%, and Hong Kong's Hang Seng lost 1.36%. In corporate news, Yahoo! ( YHOO), which is in the middle of a major strategic overhaul, saw its stock lose 0.1% to $15.91. Ben Schachter, an analyst at Macquarie Group, said the company needs to establish a clear vision of what it is before tapping a new CEO. Toy company Mattel ( MAT) reported third-quarter profit of 86 cents a share, in line with estimates. The company also said it will increase its previously announced share buyback program by $500 million. Shares dropped 1% to $27.51. Retailer Gap ( GPS) plans to close more than one fifth of its stores in North America by the end of 2013 while expanding its reach in China. Shares slipped 0.8% to $17.78. Activist investor Carl Icahn took a new 10% stake in engine maker Navistar ( NAV). Shares jumped 7.3% to $41.51. The dollar index, a measure of the dollar's value against a basket of currencies, was down 0.602%. The benchmark 10-year Treasury was lower by 17/32, pushing the yield to 2.246%. Gold for December delivery gained $14.50, or 0.9%, to settle at $1,683 an ounce. In other commodities, the November crude oil contract jumped $2.57, or 3.1% higher, to settle at $86.80 a barrel. -- Written by Chao Deng and Melinda Peer in New York.