By  on February 23, 2010

Uncertainty about the direction of the Federal Reserve Board’s monetary policy snuffed out hope of a rally on Wall Street Monday, but retail stocks finished flat.

The S&P Retail Index finished the day exactly where it closed on Friday, at 413.61. Although denied its seventh consecutive gain, the index hasn’t experienced a decline since Feb. 10 and remains up 0.6 percent for the year.

The broader market seesawed for much of the day before all three major indices finished Monday’s session with small declines, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average suffering the worst, but still relatively minor, damage with an 18.97, or 0.2 percent, fall to 10,383.38. The Dow’s dip ended a streak of four consecutive winning sessions.

U.S. investors are still trying to get their bearings about last week’s decision by the Fed to raise the discount rate, and their anxiety neutralized hopes that banks might be able to escape regulatory reforms that could dent profits.

Fed chairman Ben Bernanke is scheduled to share his views with members of the House and Senate on Wednesday and Thursday, and they will be eager to hear the reasoning behind the move and possible subsequent ones.

European markets moved downward slightly, failing to sustain the momentum built earlier in the day in Asia.

London’s FTSE 100 finished Monday’s session down 6.10 points, or 0.1 percent, to 5,352.07, while the CAC 40 was off 12.84 points, or 0.3 percent, to 3,756.70. Germany’s DAX fell 33.61 points, or 0.6 percent, to 5,688.44.

Asian markets took their cues from New York’s strong advance on Friday. Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 closed at 10,400.47, gaining 276.89 points, the second time in a week it posted a 2.7 percent gain. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index followed suit, growing 483.25 points, or 2.4 percent, to 20,377.27, while Shanghai’s SSE Composite Index fell 14.73 points, or 0.5 percent, to 3,003.40.

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