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Stocks Decline on Weak Private Sector Job Gains

Retail slips 0.9 percent.

Retail stocks fell along the broader market today as investors gauged the impact of weaker than expected private sector job gains last month and the specter of tighter fiscal policy from the Federal Reserve.

The S&P 500 Retailing Industry Group declined 0.9 percent, or 6.48 points, to 741.55, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average also retreated 0.9 percent, or 138.85 points, to 14,700.95.

Among those losing ground in the fashion sector were The Jones Group Inc., which fell 5.7 percent to $13.20 after the company posted a disappointing sales forecast; Perry Ellis International Inc., 3.8 percent to $16.91; American Eagle Outfitters Inc., 3.7 percent to $18.73, and Maidenform Brands Inc., 3.4 percent to $17.39.

The ADP National Employment Report showed that the private sector added 119,000 jobs last month. The reading was well below the 160,000 in job gains economists projected and marked the slowest growth for the private sector since September.

Separately, the Ben S. Bernanke-led Federal Reserve signaled that it is every so slightly imagining a day when it will pull back some of its support for the economy.

Interest rates are already at historic lows and the Fed buys $40 billion in mortgage-backed debt and $45 billion in Treasury debt a month.

In a statement, the Fed’s committee that sets monetary policy said it would “continue its purchases of Treasury and agency mortgage-backed securities, and employ its other policy tools as appropriate, until the outlook for the labor market has improved substantially in a context of price stability.”

The FTSE 100 in London was up 0.3 percent to 6,451.29 as Europe’s other main markets were closed for the May Day public holiday.

The pound traded at $1.51 against the dollar at the close of trading.

London’s retail and luxury stocks showed mixed results, with Asos.com ahead 7 percent to 34.23 pounds; Marks & Spencer, up 1.2 percent to 4.13 pounds; while Mulberry was flat at 8.90 pounds.

Gemfields, however, dropped 3.9 percent to 0.25 pounds and Burberry lost 1.7 percent to 13.14 pounds.