Officials in New York and Washington were on the watch for reprisals Monday after U.S. special forces killed 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden in Pakistan Sunday. But aside from a stepped-up police presence, it appeared to be business as usual for the retail and financial worlds.
The S&P Retail Index shot up to 546.67 in afternoon trading, the highest reading ever from the nine-year-old gauge of retail stocks. The sector, which has traditionally led the market out of downturns, has been boosted by strong corporate earnings, lower unemployment and a sense that the recovery is strengthening. The outlook is clouded by rising food and gasoline prices for consumers and higher costs for cotton and labor for manufacturers and retailers.
Retail stocks ended up 0.6 percent, or 3.07 points, to 543.57, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 3.18 points to 12,807.36. Retail gainers included Urban Outfitters Inc., ahead 1.2 percent to $31.85, and Macy’s Inc., up 1.1 percent to $24.18.
Bin Laden’s killing, which was ordered by President Obama, is not seen as having a direct financial impact on the U.S., though it does eliminate an uncertainty that’s lingered for nearly a decade following the coordinated plane hijackings that destroyed the Twin Towers in New York and damaged the Pentagon in Washington.
“Every time he semisurfaced with a broadcast on Al Jazeera or wherever, it was widely reported,” said James Smith, chief economist for wealth management firm Parsec Financial Management. “People got concerned.”
In addition to the 9/11 attack, New York City police commissioner Raymond Kelly said bin Laden was involved in or served as inspiration for “at least a dozen plots against the city since then, including ones to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge, to bomb mass transit and to smuggle explosives into the Garment District.”
Kelly said the department was “not taking any chances” and allotted for an increased police presence during Monday’s evening commute. High-profile locations such as Times Square, the Financial District and Grand Central Station were also getting additional attention.
In Washington, Metro Transit Police said they were stepping up security of the entire subway and bus system “out of an abundance of caution.”
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the federal government was not planning to raise the terror alert level, but would closely monitor the situation.