By and  on November 20, 2013

U.S. retail stocks joined the major indices in decline today after minutes from the Federal Reserve's meeting last month indicated the central bank could start to pull back on its bond purchases.

The S&P 500 Retailing Industry Group receded 0.5 percent to 911.71, its third consecutive daily decline, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average once again failed to close above 16,000 after hitting the mark in midday trading. The Dow closed down 0.4 percent at 15,900.82 and the S&P 500, also down 0.4 percent, finished at 1,781.37.

The Federal Open Market Committee elected to leave in place its $85 billion in monthly asset purchases, but markets moved on word of a possible tapering of the bond purchases. Notes from the meeting said “the committee could decide to slow the pace of purchases at one of its next few meetings” depending on the pace of economic recovery.

Although it reported a wider third-quarter loss, investors were encouraged by signs of moderating sales declines at J.C. Penney Co. Inc. and sent shares up 8.4 percent to $9.44, the largest percentage gain among the retail, fashion and beauty stocks tracked by WWD. Aéropostale Inc. shares advanced 5.6 percent to $10.04 for the day’s second-biggest gain after Hirzel Capital Management LLC disclosed that it had taken an active 6 percent stake in the struggling teen retailer.

The day’s decliners also included Inter Parfums Inc., off 4 percent to $36.01, and Delia’s Inc., down 3.5 percent to $1.40.

U.S. markets had trended upward earlier in the day on government reports of better-than-expected retail sales and a decline in the Consumer Price Index.

European markets closed broadly flat. The FTSE 100 lost 0.3 percent to 6,681.08, Milan's FTSE MIB dropped 0.2 percent to 18,728.08 and Paris' CAC 40 dipped 0.1 percent to 4,268.37. Frankfurt's DAX managed a 0.1 percent increase to 9,202.07.

The euro traded at $1.35 against the dollar and the pound was worth $1.61.

Retail and luxury stocks ended the day with mixed results. Among the shares making gains were Ferragamo, up 2.2 percent to 25.76 euros; Brunello Cucinelli, 1.7 percent to 23.10 euros, and Kering, 1.1 percent to 163.85 euros.

Shares losing ground included Mulberry, down 4.4 percent to 10.25 pounds; Tod's, 0.6 percent to 116.80 euros, and Marks & Spencer, 0.5 percent to 4.93 pounds.

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