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Stocks slip in early trading, head for weekly loss

A Wall Street sign in front of the

A Wall Street sign in front of the New York Stock Exchange on April 22, 2010. Credit: AP / Mark Lennihan

The stock market moved lower Friday, heading for its first weekly loss since the start of August. Declines were led by energy and utility companies. Treasurys fell after news that retail sales in August rose faster than economists predicted. That reinforced expectations that the Federal Reserve may start hiking interest rates sooner than expected.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index dropped four points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,992 as of 11:11 a.m. on Wall Street. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 22 points, or 0.1 percent, to 17,026. The Nasdaq composite dropped nine points, or 0.1 percent, to 4,581.

SUBDUED MOOD: Stocks have had a lackluster week as investors struggle to find reasons to buy shares.

Investors are wondering whether the Fed is closer to raising interest rates. Policymakers are scheduled to meet next week. The S&P 500 index is down 0.8 percent for the week. The last time it ended a week lower was Aug. 1.

RETAIL SALES: Car buying drove U.S. retail sales higher in August, a possible sign that job growth in recent months has sped up consumer spending. The Commerce Department said Friday that seasonally adjusted retail sales rose 0.6 percent compared with the prior month. Economists had expected a gain of 0.5 percent. July sales were also revised upward to a 0.3 percent increase from flat.

THE QUOTE: Investors shouldn't be worried by higher interest rates right now, said Karyn Cavanaugh, a senior market strategist at Voya investment management, because they are a signal that the economy is getting better.

Higher interest rates "are a testament to the economy being able to function on its own," said Cavanaugh. "It's a good thing."

BONDS AND CURRENCIES: Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note, which rises when prices fall, climbed to 2.60 percent from 2.55 percent late Thursday. The dollar remains firm before a Fed meeting next week. A number of traders think the Fed may hint that interest rates could start rising sooner than expected. The euro was 0.1 percent higher at $1.2937 while the dollar rose 0.1 percent to 107.30 yen.

DONE DEAL: Conversant, a provider of online advertising services, climbed $8.28, or 31 percent, to $34.99. The rise came after Alliance Data said late Thursday it was buying Conversant for about $2.3 billion.

SICKLY SLUMP: Health Care REIT, an investment trust that invests in senior housing and health care real estate, was the biggest decliner in the S&P 500. The company said it was selling an additional $1.1 billion of stock to repay debt and fund investments. It's stock dropped $2.26, or 3.4 percent, to $64.25.

EUROPEAN STOCKS: France's CAC 40 slipped 0.1 percent and Germany's DAX lost 0.3 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 edged up 0.3 percent.

OIL: Crude fell 17 cents to $92.66 a barrel in New York.

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