US STOCKS-Wall Street slightly higher after retail data
* J.C. Penney rises; William Ackman resigns from board
* Retail sales rise 0.2 percent in July, below forecasts
* Digital Generation soars, to sell television business
* Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq all 0.2 percent higher
NEW YORK, Aug 13 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were slightly higher on Monday, as investors sought bargains after a period of weakness, though some discouraging data limited gains.
July import and export prices came in slightly under consensus expectations, as did July retail sales. But a gauge of consumer spending - retail sales excluding cars, gasoline and building materials - rose at its fastest pace in seven months.
"The data supports the idea that the economy is improving, though growth is still less than we'd like to see," said James Dunigan, chief investment officer at PNC Wealth Management in Philadelphia.
Investors have been closely watching economic data for insight into both the strength of the economy and when the Federal Reserve might slow its monetary stimulus, which has been credited with fueling the S&P's gain of nearly 19 percent so far this year. The central bank said it could begin to slow purchases next month if economic growth meets its targets.
The S&P has fallen for five of the past six sessions, and last week posted its worst week since June. Wall Street has struggled for direction in the past month. Since July 11, the S&P has traded in a narrow range of about 2 percent. The benchmark index is about 1 percent below its all-time high reached earlier this month.
"The general tone in markets is positive, but things are feeling a bit heavy," said Dunigan, who helps oversee $118 billion. "I think the next 5 percent move in markets will be down, while the next 10 percent move after that will be up."
The Dow Jones industrial average was up 27.64 points, or 0.18 percent, at 15,447.32. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 3.21 points, or 0.19 percent, at 1,692.68. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 7.18 points, or 0.20 percent, at 3,677.14.
J.C. Penney Co rose 2.1 percent to $13.44 after the retailer said major investor William Ackman has resigned from the board. Ackman, who runs the hedge fund Pershing Square, has been pushing Penney to oust its chairman and chief executive.
"If you're an aggressive investor, this could be viewed as a catalyst to get in J.C. Penney," said Oliver Pursche, president of Gary Goldberg Financial Services in Suffern, New York. "We've been considering it as a valuation and turnaround play."
Eli Lilly and Co rose 4 percent to $55.72 after it said its experimental lung cancer drug increased survival in a late-stage trial.
Digital Generation Inc soared 30 percent to $13.39 a day after it agreed to sell its television business for $485 million.
Yum Brands Inc fell 2.5 percent to $72.63 a day after the fast food chain operator said July China sales slid 13 percent.
With 90 percent of the S&P 500 having reported, 68 percent of companies have topped earnings expectations, while 24 percent have missed. JDS Uniphase Corp is the only S&P 500 company scheduled to report quarterly results on Tuesday.