Stocks open lower after banks, retail sales

Friday, April 12, 2013 - 11:04am

Stocks were slightly lower Friday, following weak retail sales and mixed bank earnings.

The Dow Jones industrial average and Nasdaq shed 0.3%, while he S&P 500 lost 0.4%.

Despite the step back, stocks are on track to finish the week sharply higher, and just below the record highs set Thursday. The Dow and S&P 500 are up about 2%, while the Nasdaq has gained almost 3% for the week.

Stocks have been on a tear this year. The Dow is about 1% away from 15,000, while the S&P 500 is only 0.8% below 1,600. There hasn't been any one catalyst pushing stocks higher lately. Mostly, investors just don't want to miss the next leg up.

Big banks report earnings: Investors focused on earnings Friday, as two big banks opened their books. JPMorgan Chase reported a first-quarter profit that topped forecasts, but revenue missed estimates. Similarly, Wells Fargo reported a jump in profit, but a decline in revenue. Shares of both banks edged lower.

The first quarter was expected to have been a tough one for banks, with interest rates hovering near record lows. Citigroup, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley will report their results next week.

No Easter bump for retail sales: On the economic front, the U.S. government reported that retail sales dropped 0.4% in March, dragged down by weakness in electronics and gasoline prices. Economists were expecting sales to be unchanged from February.

The Producer Price Index fell 0.6% in March, a more dramatic drop than the 0.1% economists had forecast. That's another sign that inflation is not a problem right now.

What's moving: J.C. Penney shares edged higher following reports that it hired Blackstone to help the retailer raise $1 billion.

In other corporate news, Nasdaq executives will be getting their bonuses cut this year, and the bungled Facebook IPO is to blame.

European markets were lower in afternoon trading, as concerns about the mounting cost of the Cyprus bailout ended a four-day winning streak. London's FTSE 100 was down 0.4%, while the CAC 40 in Paris dropped 1.1% and the DAX in Frankfurt fell 1.5%.

Officials from the European Union and International Monetary Fund said they will not give Cyprus extra cash to plug the gaping holes in its finances.

Asian markets ended lower. The Shanghai Composite declined 0.6%, the Nikkei lost 0.5% and the Hang Seng dropped 0.1%.

The dollar gained ground versus the euro and the British pound, but fell versus the Japanese yen.
Oil and gold prices fell sharply.

The price on the 10-year Treasury rose, pushing the yield down to 1.75% from 1.79% late Thursday.

 

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