Investors remained comparatively bullish on U.S. retailers, which bucked a down market and posted gains today despite some Federal Reserve concerns that consumer spending might slow. Minutes from the January meeting of the Fed’s Open Market Committee showed the central bank’s leaders believe the economy is expanding moderately even with slower growth abroad.
But the outlook on consumer spending was mixed at the meeting, which was lead by chairman Ben S. Bernanke.
“Several participants observed that consumer spending had outpaced growth in personal disposable income last year, and a few noted that households remained pessimistic about their income prospects and uncertain about the economic outlook,” according to the meeting’s minutes. “These observations suggested that growth of consumer spending might slow.”
Still some of the meeting’s other participants said recent job gains were helping incomes and therefore support “continued moderate growth in consumer spending.”
The high-flying S&P Retail Index gained 1.33 points to 624.49 as the Dow Jones Industrial Average dipped 64.94 points to 13,199.55.
Shares of Joe’s Jeans Inc. gained 13.1 percent to $1.38 after the company said Monday its stock met requirements for continued Nasdaq trading. Also posting increases were Lululemon Athletica Inc., 2.5 percent to $76.61; Vera Bradley Inc., 2.4 percent to $31.41; Urban Outfitters Inc., 2.3 percent to $30.22, and Sears Holdings Corp., 2.1 percent to $68.06.
Shares of Avon Products Inc. slipped 2.3 percent to $22.19, giving back some of Monday’s 17.3 percent rally, which was fueled by an unsolicited $10 billion takeover offer from Coty Inc. European investors were also anxious over the Fed update and stock markets in the region lost ground at the end of trading, led by the FTSE MIB in Milan.
The Italian market fell 2 percent to 15,624.23, followed by the CAC 40 in Paris, which sank 1.6 percent to 3,406.78. The DAX in Frankfurt tumbled 1.1 percent to 6,982.28 and the FTSE 100 in London edged down 0.6 percent to 5,838.34.
The stock decliners included Asos.com, down 1.4 percent to 17.75 pounds, Carrefour, 2 percent to 17.77 euros, and Metro, 2 percent to 28.75 euros.
Bucking the trend and gaining ground for the day were Burberry Group, up 2.1 percent to 15.60 pounds; French Connection, 4.4 percent to 0.47 pounds, and Ferragamo, 2.7 percent to 16.41 euros.
The euro traded at $1.33 while the pound traded at $1.60.
Unemployment levels in Spain marked a record high of 4.75 million, with youth unemployment hitting 50 percent.
There were also hints of continued growth in the U.K. despite broader European weakness. The British Chambers of Commerce said it expects economic growth of 0.3 percent in the first quarter of 2012, which ended last week.
“While the results are more encouraging than the previous quarter, they show that growth is still too weak, with the balances still below those seen in 2007 before the recession.
“Many manufacturing balances are now at a satisfactory level, but the service sector balances are sluggish,” the business lobby said in its latest quarterly economic survey.