Wall Street loses steam as retailers, Exxon weigh
NEW YORK - Stocks dipped on Thursday, weighed by Exxon Mobil and retailers, as an earlier boost from upbeat labor market data lost steam.
The S&P retail index declined 0.7 percent, pulled lower by a 13.2 percent tumble in Bed, Bath and Beyond Inc to $69.14 and a 6.9 percent drop in Family Dollar Stores Inc to $61.76.
Bed Bath & Beyond lowered its fourth quarter and full-year earnings estimates after the close on Wednesday while Family Dollar <FDO.N> reported a weaker quarterly profit on Thursday as it discounted more than it had planned to win holiday shoppers.
Exxon Mobil Corp lost 1 percent to $99.71 as the biggest drag on the S&P 500 after Citigroup cut its rating on the oil company to "neutral" from "buy."
"After a number of years where the macro events meant the stocks traded pretty similarly, now we are beginning to see more differentiation," said Kate Warne, investment strategist at Edward Jones in St. Louis.
"While there are still broad macro questions that will move the market as a whole, right now we are beginning to see investors try to parse through the data to say which companies will continue to make gains and which ones will disappoint as they can't continue the progress from last year."
Indexes had opened in positive territory, aided by initial jobless claims data which showed the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits last week fell more than expected to a seasonally adjusted 330,000, pointing to an economy that was continuing to gain steam.
The U.S. central bank said last month it would begin trimming its stimulative monthly bond purchases, and minutes from the Fed's most recent meeting showed its top officials were keen to steer a delicate path and many of them stressed that future decisions were not set in stone.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 65.03 points or 0.39 percent, to 16,397.71, the S&P 500 lost 5.24 points or 0.29 percent, to 1,832.25 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 19.56 points or 0.47 percent, to 4,146.052.
The decline put the S&P on track for its fifth drop in six sessions so far in the year.
Macy's was a bright spot for retailers, as shares jumped 7.5 percent to $55.74 a day after the department store operator reported strong holiday sales and gave a preliminary forecast for 2014 that suggests it will continue to outpace its rivals.
Still, many U.S. retailers had ramped up promotions as shoppers continued to watch their spending during the holiday season, hitting profits at several chains.
Healthcare sector stocks continued to shine as one of only two of the major S&P indexes in positive territory. U.S. drugs wholesaler McKesson added 3 percent to $174.89 after it raised its offer for German peer Celesio, persuading a hedge fund that had been blocking the multi-billion dollar deal to agree to sell some of its shares.
Intercept Pharmaceuticals Inc. rocketed more than 280 percent to $277.82 after it said an analysis by an independent safety committee showed its liver disease drug met the main goal of a mid-stage trial.