Gap Inc. led retail stocks lower on Wall Street today.

Shares of the specialty chain were down 10.3 percent to $30.94, as the trading day approached its close. That was the steepest decline in the S&P 500 Retailing Industry Group, which was down 0.6 percent, or 4.05 points, at 666.89. The Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 0.1 percent, or 14.05 points, to 12,951.55.

One financial source said a large Gap investor sold off shares at the open and might have created a snowball effect.

Fashion’s other decliners included Oxford Industries Inc., down 4.8 percent to $52.78; Chico’s FAS Inc., 3.3 percent to $18.04; VF Corp., 3 percent to $156.19; True Religion Apparel Inc., 2.7 percent to $23.73, and Urban Outfitters Inc., 2.2 percent to $36.54.

Investors have been keeping a close eye on Washington’s efforts to steer clear of the fiscal cliff, a set of automatic tax hikes and spending cuts that economists worry could push the economy back into recession.
In Europe, the FTSE MIB in Milan gained the most ground.

The Italian market closed up 1 percent at 16,041.54, followed by the CAC 40 in Paris, which advanced 0.4 percent to 3,580.48. The DAX in Frankfurt was flat at 7,435.12 while the FTSE 100 in London was down 0.04 percent to 5,869.04.

The day’s biggest gainers included Hugo Boss, which advanced 1.9 percent to 80.35 euros; French Connection, 11.1 percent to 33 pence, and the Italian clothing manufacturer Aeffe, 1.7 percent to 0.56 euros.

Among the stocks that lost ground were Inditex, down 2.8 percent to 100.75 euros, and Yoox, 3.6 percent to 11.50 euros.

The euro traded at $1.30 versus the dollar while the pound traded at $1.61 and the Swiss franc traded at $1.08.

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