As crude oil dropped below $30 a barrel, the Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 515 points, which followed declines in Europe and Asia. Economic concerns triggered the sell-off.
At the midday session, the Dow was off just over 3 percent to 15,863. Retail stocks were also sharply down with the S&P Retailing Industry Group Index dropping 2.8 percent to 1,142. The S&P 500 was off 3.3 percent to 1,858.
The Dow opened the market by immediately dropping 330 points.
Economic reports confirmed what retailers had been saying all along, that December retail sales were down 1 percent. Analysts had estimated sales would be up 0.4 percent. The Commerce Department reported on Friday that while retail sales were up 2.1 percent for 2015, consumers opted not to spend their gas savings in December even if it was the holidays. Clothing sales were down 0.9 percent for the month, but so were electronics and appliance sales. Furniture stores and sporting goods stores showed increases.
Since this was the weakest year in retail sales since 2009, the S&P Retail ETF was dropping over 2 percent to $39.28 and the Market Vectors Retail ETF was sliding by almost 2 percent as well to $71.17.
Crude oil continues its slippery downward slide and has broken the key $30 a barrel price. Iranian oil is about to enter the market causing even more supply of crude oil.
News of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. closing 269 stores including 154 in the U.S. 16,000 employees in the U.S. also added to the selloff. The stock is falling over 1 percent in early trading to $61.88. And Sears Holdings Inc. is joining Wal-Mart as it too right-sizes its portfolio of stores. Sears said it was closing four Kmart stores in California in March and April. Sears had 952 Kmart stores at the end of October. Sears stock is down almost 2 percent to $17.40 in early trading.
American Apparel stock isn’t reacting after word that Dov Chaney’s bid to take back the company was rejected. Charney along with two investors made a $300 million bid to buy back the company. It was reported, but not confirmed that the board rejected the offer. The stock was falling over 6 percent to 11 cents.
Europe has also been trading to the downside as commodity stocks dropped. Discount clothing chain H&M did its part with strong December sales, but it wasn’t enough. BHP Billiton fell over 4 percent saying it would write down its U.S. shale assets by $7.2 billion.
FTSE MIB declined 2.2 percent to 1,9379.26, followed by London’s FTSE 100, which dipped 1.4 percent to 5,839. Paris’ CAC 40 fell 1.3 percent, while the DAX in Frankfurt retreated 1.2 percent to 9,670.65.
The euro traded at $1.09, while the pound fetched $1.44, the Swiss franc equaled $1.00 and the Swedish Krona changed hands for $0.11 at 12:30 p.m. CET.
Retail and luxury stocks were showing mixed results. Shares gaining ground included Bonmarche Holdings, up 5.40 percent to 18.4 euros, and Next, up 2.7 percent to 67.6 pounds.
In Asia, the Shanghai Composite has finished the week at its lowest level since last summer’s stock market rout.
On Friday, the SSE fell 3.55 percent to just over 2,900. The market, though always volatile due to an over-reliance on retail investors, has fluctuated particularly wildly in the first two weeks of trading for 2016.
This fall below the psychologically important level of 3,000 will test the resolve of Chinese authorities, who have paid lip service to the idea of nonintervention but have been unable to restrain themselves in the past.
Market watchers are expecting international volatility to continue.
Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 inched down 0.54 percent while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng slid 1.5 percent.