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Retail Sales, Stimulus News Help Stocks

Investors Wednesday also weighed reports that Yahoo! and News Corp. are in talks on a possible alliance

Stocks finished sharply higher Wednesday after stronger-than-expected retail sales in January helped ease the widespread fears of a recession. Sentiment was also lifted by President Bush’s signing of the U.S. economic stimulus package, some favorable earnings reports, and late-session reports that Yahoo! (YHOO) is discussing a possible partnership with News Corp. (NWS).

The Yahoo!-News Corp. talks were reported on The Wall Street Journal's web site. Yahoo! is fighting off an unsolicited $44.6 billion takeover bid from Microsoft (MSFT).