Stocks skidded Friday afternoon into a third straight week of losses. Companies that make clothing, food and household goods are falling as retailers continue to report plunging first-quarter sales. Energy companies are falling as the price of oil slips following a string of recent gains.
ON WALL STREET: At the close, the Dow Jones industrial average gave up 185.2 points, about 1.1 percent, to 17,535.3. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 17.5 points, about 0.9 percent, to 2,046.6. The Nasdaq composite index lost 19.7 points, about 0.4 percent, to 4,717.7.
OIL PRICES: In late afternoon, the price of U.S. benchmark crude oil was down 52 cents at $46.18 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. In London, the price of the international standard, Brent crude, was down 32 cents, at $47.76 a barrel.
RETAIL WRECKAGE: Nordstrom Inc. slashed its annual projections and said a key measure of sales fell for the first time in almost seven years. J.C. Penney Co. and Dillard’s also reported results that came up short of analyst estimates.
Retailers have seen their stocks plunge in the last few days following a series of weak reports. Nordstrom has tumbled 19 percent this week and Macy’s has fallen 17 percent. Kohl’s is up 2 percent Friday but it’s still down about 13 percent for the week.
SILVER LINING: The Commerce Department said total retail sales in the United States improved in April, suggesting spending might have rebounded after a weak first quarter. Retail sales slipped in March as car sales decreased. Retail sales have climbed 3 percent over the last year. But the report contained still more bad news for department stores: online and catalog shopping jumped 10 percent from a year ago, and sales at department stores are down almost 2 percent.
ANALYST’S OPINION: While retailers are having trouble, analyst Mike Ryan, chief investment strategist for UBS Wealth Management Americas, said consumers are still spending and he’s starting to see evidence that the U.S. economy recovered in the second quarter. But that doesn’t mean stocks are going to surge the way they did in February and March. “I think markets can and will grind higher over the course of the next six months,” he said. “A lot will hinge on corporate profits.”