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Stocks Drop, Spanish Woes Center Stage

S&P Retail Index, Dow decline for third straight session.

Wall Street fell for the third straight session today as investors kept a wary eye on the fiscal health of Spain.

 

The S&P Retail Index fell 0.6 percent, or 3.94 points, to 610.15, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average declined 0.8 percent, or 104.14 points, to 12,617.32.

 

The retail decliners included The Bon-Ton Stores Inc., down 7.4 percent to $7.44; Stein Mart Inc., 4 percent to $7.51; Abercrombie & Fitch Co., 2.8 percent to $34.96; Lululemon Athletica Inc., 2.6 percent to $56.85, and Perry Ellis International Inc., 2.5 percent to $18.71. Although there are growing concerns about the strength of the U.S. economy, it is Europe that’s taken center stage.

 

Spain’s cost of borrowing rose to a euro-era high of 7.57 percent, while the Catalonia region asked for government money to ease its debt load. Valencia requested financial assistance Friday. It is looking increasingly likely that Spain itself will have to ask its European Union partners for a bailout.

 

Earlier this week, Moody’s Investors Service put Germany’s “AAA” credit rating on watch for downgrade because of the problems in the euro zone, especially in Greece and Spain. International Monetary Fund and European officials are headed to Athens this week to evaluate how Greece is handling its austerity measures and whether to grant it the third and final tranche of bailout funds agreed to in March. If Greece were to default on its loans, the country could leave the currency bloc and re-instate the drachma.

 

The FTSE MIB in Milan was down 2.7 percent to 12,362.51 followed by the CAC 40 in Paris, which was down 0.9 percent to 3,074.68. London’s FTSE 100 fell 0.6 percent to 5,499.23 while Frankfurt’s DAX retreated 0.5 percent to 6,390.41.

 

Retail and luxury stocks were mixed. The day’s biggest gainers include The Swatch Group, up 2.4 percent to 64.90 Swiss francs; Compagnie Financiere Richemont, 1.2 percent to 53.00 Swiss francs, and Unilever, 1.2 percent to 26.87 euros.

 

Among the stocks losing ground were Inditex, down 2.2 percent to 77.90 euros; Asos.com, 1.6 percent to 17.50 pounds; Mulberry Group, 1.1 percent to 13.71 pounds, and Ferragamo, 1.2 percent to 14.61 euros.

 

The euro traded at $1.21 while the pound traded at $1.56 and the Swiss franc went for $1.01.