* April retail sales rise 1.3 pct vs. est. 0.8 pct rise
* Nordstrom, J.C. Penney lower after fall in sales
* Apple bounces back after 2-year low on Thursday
* Indexes up: Dow 0.03 pct, S&P 0.08 pct, Nasdaq 0.29 pct (Updates to open)
By Tanya Agrawal
May 13 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were struggling for direction on Friday morning as a drop in consumer stocks after another set of weak retail reports was offset by a bounce in Apple shares and strong retails sales data that suggested the economy recovery was gaining traction.
The U.S. Commerce Department said retail sales jumped 1.3 percent last month, the largest gain since March 2015 and a bigger rise than the 0.8 percent economists were expecting.
"The numbers came in much stronger than we expected and that will help alleviate the market's concerns over retail. The number also puts the rate hike back on the table," said Peter Cardillo chief market economist at First Standard Financial.
Two U.S. Federal Reserve officials said on Thursday that the central bank should raise rates if data points to an improving economy. Traders are pricing in only rate hike this year.
However, consumer stocks fell after two more department store operators, Nordstrom and J.C. Penney, reported lower-than-expected sales, stoking fears about consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity.
But, all the three major U.S. indexes got a boost from a bounce in Apple shares a day after they tumbled to a two-year low. The stock was up 0.3 percent at $90.60.
At 9:43 a.m. ET (1343 GMT) the Dow Jones industrial average was up 5.31 points, or 0.03 percent, at 17,725.81.
The S&P 500 was up 1.67 points, or 0.08 percent, at 2,065.78.
The Nasdaq Composite was up 13.59 points, or 0.29 percent, at 4,750.92.
Six of the 10 major S&P sectors were higher, with the Apple-boosted tech index's 0.47 rise leading the advancers.
The consumer discretionary and consumer staples led the laggards with a fall on 0.37 percent and 0.36 percent, respectively.
Nordstrom slumped 13.9 percent to $38.92, while J.C. Penney tumbled 4.5 percent to $7.45.
Nvidia was up 11.2 percent at $39.74 after it forecast better-than-expected revenue for the current quarter.
Shake Shack rose 5.5 percent to $36.15 after the burger chain raised its same-restaurant sales forecast for the year.
Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by 1,437 to 1,129. On the Nasdaq, 1,149 issues rose and 985 fell.
The S&P 500 index showed 7 new 52-week highs and 8 new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 10 new highs and 21 new lows. (Reporting by Tanya Agrawal, Additional reporting by Yashaswini Swamynathan; Editing by Ted Kerr and Savio D'Souza)