- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 14, 2009

Wall Street closed Wednesday with losses, following a disappointing government report on retail sales.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 8,284.89, down 184.22 points. The broader Standard & Poor’s 500 Index closed at 883.92, down 24.43 points, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq closed at 1,664.19, down 51.73 points.

The Commerce Department said retail sales fell 0.4 percent in April, after analysts predicted no change from March, when sales dropped 1.3 percent, revised from 1.1 percent.

Investors focus on consumer spending because it accounts for about two-thirds of the U.S. economy.

The markets are up roughly 25 percent in the past two months, following first-quarter reports by major U.S. banks that were better than expected, then upbeat reports last week on unemployment and the health of the country’s 19 largest financial institutions.

However, the markets have posted mixed results this week, with the Dow losing more than 155 points Monday, then regaining 50 points Tuesday.

Alyce Lomax, a retail analyst with the Motley Fool, an Alexandria-based financial-services company, said she was not surprised by this week’s losses because continuing high unemployment and consumers carrying “way too much debt” foreshadowed downbeat government and corporate reports on retails sales.

Department store giant Macy’s Inc. on Wednesday reported first-quarter losses of $88 million. Analysts said the losses were better than expected when excluding the company’s restructuring charges.

“The losses were better than anticipated, but not exactly what you’d call a good quarter,” Miss Lomax said.

Macy’s stock closed at $11.52, down 83 cents.

The woman’s clothing maker Liz Claiborne also reported first-quarter losses and said net sales for the quarter were $780 million, roughly 29 percent less than in the same period in 2008.

Claiborne stock closed at $4.26, down $1.51.

The first-quarter report for Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is due Thursday, as is the federal government’s report on unemployment.

RealtyTrac on Wednesday reported the number of foreclosures nationwide increased by 1 percent in April, compared with the previous month and by 32 percent compared with the similar time last year. The online company reported 342,038 foreclosures, which includes default notices, auction-sale notices and bank repossessions.

Miss Lomax called the foreclosure report “just one more piece of the bad news making people say, ‘Gosh, I was hoping things were getting a lot better.’ ” Overseas, Japan’s Nikkei stock average rose 41.88 percent, Britain’s FTSE 100 declined 2.13 percent, Germany’s DAX index declined 2.61 percent, and France’s CAC-40 fell 2.42 percent.

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