European stock markets closed on a down note today amid a slew of lukewarm reports from the Euro zone and Wall Street ended flat as a report of stronger retail sales in October was offset by lower third-quarter profits from Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

 

The CAC 40 in Paris fared the worst, falling 1.9 percent to close at 3,049.13 points. Milan’s FTSE MIB was down 1.1 percent to 15,284.30, while the DAX in Frankfurt edged downward 0.9 percent to 5,933.14. The FTSE 100 slipped 0.03 percent to close at 5,517.44.

 

Eurostat reported that the overall Euro zone economy grew 0.2 percent in the third quarter, with France and Germany driving the increase with modest gains. In the U.K., October inflation fell to 5 percent, down from 5.2 percent in the previous month but was still well above the Bank of England’s target rate of 2 percent.

 

Investors continue to keep a nervous eye on Italian bond yields, which touched the critical 7 percent threshold once again, despite plans for a new government following the resignation of prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

 

Retail and luxury stocks were mostly down, with the day’s biggest losers including Safilo Group, which fell 8.3 percent to 4.31 euros; and Benetton, which tumbled 6.1 percent to 3.60 euros. Burberry fell 5.2 percent to close at 13.47 pounds despite the company’s 26 percent gain in first-half profits. The euro traded at $1.35 while the pound traded at $1.58.

 

In the U.S., the S&P Retail Index ended basically flat, up 0.02 points to 547.08 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up just 0.14 points, or 17.18 points, to 12,096.16 as markets settled.

 

Wal-Mart, a Dow component stock, held markets back, falling 2.4 percent to $57.46. Abercrombie & Fitch Co. also stood out with a 2.7 percent decline to $55.77, as did J.C. Penney Co. Inc., which slipped 2.2 percent decline to $32.25.

 

On the bright side, the Commerce Department said October retail sales rose 0.5 percent from September, a better showing than the 0.4 percent economists expected.

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