US STOCKS-Wall St gains after Citigroup; S&P 500 up for 8th day
* Empire State manufacturing index up, but retail sales soft
* Citigroup shares climb after earnings
* Leap Wireless shares more than double
* Dow up 0.3 pct, S&P 500 up 0.2 pct, Nasdaq up 0.2 pct
NEW YORK, July 15 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks edged up on Monday, putting the S&P 500 on track for an eighth day of gains, as upbeat results from Citigroup offset mixed U.S. economic data.
Shares of Citigroup shot up 1.9 percent to $51.80 after the third-largest U.S. bank by assets reported a 26 percent increase in adjusted quarterly profit. The S&P 500 financial industry sector index was up 0.4 percent.
Leap Wireless International Inc shares more than doubled after AT&T Inc said on Friday it would buy the company for $1.19 billion and at least two brokerages raised their ratings on Leap's stock. Leap, which was the Nasdaq's most-active stock, was trading at $17.10 - up 114.3 percent.
The day's economic data sent mixed signals, with growth in New York state manufacturing for July accelerating, while June retail sales fell short of expectations. May business inventories barely increased.
Investors are watching to see what next could disrupt the market's advance. Stocks have rallied for much of this year, with the Dow and S&P 500 setting record closing highs in the last two sessions. For the year so far, the S&P 500 has climbed 18.9 percent.
"I don't see anything changing without some big macroeconomic shift to the downside. Absent that, you have a fair amount of portfolio managers trailing the indices and I think it's going to continue to be a performance chase," said Michael James, managing director of equity trading at Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles.
The Dow Jones industrial average was up 39.27 points, or 0.25 percent, at 15,503.57. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 3.47 points, or 0.21 percent, at 1,683.66. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 8.34 points, or 0.23 percent, at 3,608.42.
The S&P 500 is on track for its eighth straight advance, which would mark its longest upward move since mid-January.
Over the past three weeks, the benchmark S&P 500 has erased a loss of almost 6 percent from a selloff triggered in late May by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, when he first raised the prospect of trimming the Fed's $85 billion in monthly stimulus.
Earnings are on the near-term horizon. Analysts expect S&P 500 companies' second-quarter earnings to have grown 2.8 percent from a year earlier, with revenue up 1.5 percent, data from Thomson Reuters showed.
While earnings growth has slowed in recent quarters, it is expected to pick up the last half of the year. Bank of America-Merrill Lynch raised its year-end target for the S&P 500 to 1,750 from 1,600, citing expected earnings growth.
Most companies are exceeding analysts' earnings expectations. Of the companies that have reported second-quarter results so far, 66.7 percent are beating earnings estimates while just 60 percent are exceeding revenue estimates.
S&P 500 industrial shares rose after airlines expressed confidence over the weekend in the safety of Boeing's 787 Dreamliner following a fire on one of the jets last week. Boeing gained 3.5 percent to $105.48.
Utilities outperformed other sectors in the S&P 500, with the sector index up 1.7 percent. Utility companies, including FirstEnergy Corp and Public Service Enterprise Group Inc, were among the sector's best performers after power grid operators in the U.S. Northeast said they had enough electricity to keep air conditioners running this week through an anticipated heat wave.
Alexion Pharmaceuticals was the S&P 500's worst performer, falling 4.8 percent to $108.73. The company is being eyed for a potential bid by Swiss drugmaker Roche Holding AG
First Solar Inc was the S&P 500's best percentage gainer, rising 6.4 percent to $50.69.