Financial Markets: Retail gets slammed in worst week since August
NEW YORK >> Sharp declines in retailers dragged stocks lower Friday as the market headed for its first losing week after six straight weeks of gains.
After disappointing reports from Nordstrom and Macy's, investors are worrying the holiday shopping season will be a dud. The price of oil continued to fall.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 140 points, or 0.8 percent, to 17,301 as of 1:40 p.m. Eastern. The Standard & Poor's 500 index gave up 13 points, or 0.6 percent, to 2,033. The Nasdaq composite index slipped 46 points, or 0.9 percent, to 4,959.
Department store operator Nordstrom retreated $10.62, or 16.7 percent, to $52.85 after its report Thursday afternoon. J.C. Penney's results were about equal to analyst projections, but its stock lost $1.25, or 15.2 percent, to $7.54. Earlier this week Macy's also posted disappointing quarterly results. Both Macy's and Nordstrom hit two-year lows.
Other chains like Ross Stores and TJX, the parent of TJ Maxx, also slumped. So did Kohl's, which jumped Thursday following a strong third-quarter report. E-commerce giant Amazon fell $14.75, or 2.2 percent, to $650.85.
The latest reports were another warning sign about the holiday shopping season, which will soon kick into high gear. Black Friday is in two weeks and Christmas is six weeks away. Video game retailer GameStop sank $7.41, or 16.6 percent, to $37.12 and watchmaker Fossil Group plunged $17.76, or 34.8 percent, to $33.25. Fossil posted disappointing earnings Thursday afternoon and also said it will buy activity tracker maker Misfit for $260 million.
Stifel Nicolaus analyst Richard Jaffe suggested the steep drop in retail stocks was an overreaction. Shoppers will spend plenty of money this holiday season, he said, and while they're spending more money on smartphones and TVs and other big items than they used to, there will still be plenty of socks and sweaters exchanged over the holidays.
"Christmas is boxed gifts," Jaffe said. "There will be a lot of gift giving, a lot of apparel sales."
Jaffe noted that Americans' shopping habits have changed a lot over the last few years. Consumers are making spending more on homes, cars, and vacations. Aging baby boomers don't buy clothes as often as they used to, and younger shoppers are more interested in technology. When they do buy clothes, they'll pay extra to look fashionable. That's bad news for stores that fall behind the latest trends, but to Jaffe it's not a warning sign about the holidays or the health of the economy overall.
U.S. retail spending edged up just 0.1 percent in October, a bit less than analysts expected. Prices charged by farmers, manufacturers and other producers fell in October. Both measurements show there is little sign of inflation in the U.S. economy. When inflation is higher, consumers have an incentive to spend more money.
This week is set to be the worst one for stocks since late August. The markets tumbled that month on concerns that growth in China's economy was slowing sharply, which would pressure growth worldwide. Stocks staged a modest recovery in September but dropped again at the end of the month.
Those slumps set the stage for October's big rally. But stocks are once again stumbling. They've fallen for six out of the last seven days, and the S&P 500 is now down for the year.
Economic growth in the countries that use the euro slowed in the third quarter. The figures were disappointing, but they're likely to encourage the European Central Bank to expand a program to stimulate Europe's economy.
The price of oil continued to fall after the International Energy Agency said commercial inventories reached almost three billion barrels at the end of September, a record. The IEA also said growth in global demand will slow down next year. Oil prices have dropped because demand can't keep up with supply, so stockpiles keep growing.
Commodities prices are skidding as the Federal Reserve gets ready to raise interest rates just as central banks in Europe and Japan consider new economic stimulus moves. That could make the dollar even stronger, making dollar-denominated commodities costlier to buyers using yen, euro and other currencies.
U.S. crude slumped $1.27, or 3 percent, to $40.48 a barrel in New York. It's dropped about 13 percent this month and is at its lowest price since late August. Brent crude, which is used to price international oils, lost 84 cents, or 1.9 percent, to $44.35 a barrel in London.
Shareholders of Irish drugmaker Perrigo rejected a $26 billion offer from generics maker Mylan of the Netherlands. Perrigo fell $7.65, or 4.9 percent, to $148.90 and Mylan climbed $5.75, or 13.3 percent, to $48.95.
U.S. government bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note slipped to 2.27 percent from 2.31 percent late Thursday. The euro declined to $1.0732 from $1.0791 and the dollar edged up to $122.86 yen from 122.62 yen.
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