U.S. retail stocks rose while other sectors suffered steep declines as crude oil shed more than 5 percent in midday trading.
As a result, the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 157 points, or 0.9 percent, to 16,464 while the S&P 500 was down 0.9 percent to 1,927. But the S&P 500 Retailing Industry Group Index was up 0.2 percent to 1,186.
The top gainers at midday were: Express Inc., up 2.8 percent to $17.44; Delta Apparel Inc., up 3.6 percent to $16.29; Dicks Sporting Goods Inc. with a 4.1 percent increase to $40.93; Macy’s Inc.’s 5.3 percent increase to $43.22; Bebe Stores Inc.’s 5.4 percent gain to 44 cents, and Dillard’s Inc. with a 8.9 percent increase to $78.80.
On the declining side were Iconix Brand Group Inc., down 3.9 percent to $7.60; Aéropostale Inc. with a 2.5 percent drop to 20 cents; Signet Jewelers Ltd. with a 2.5 percent decline to $100.50, and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. with a 2.5 percent decrease to $67.14.
Chris G. Christopher, director of consumer economics at IHS Global Insight, said the decline in consumer confidence for February was “due to stock market volatility, growing concerns over the stability of the global financial system, and a not well-received January employment report.”
But there were bright spots.
“The consumer outlook for the next couple of years remains positive,” Christopher said. “The positive forces affecting consumer spending are low energy prices, modest consumer price inflation, relatively strong employment growth, rising home values and rising disposable income.”
Christopher said the “big negative” on the consumer spending front is the “recent stock market volatility, which affects consumer confidence, luxury spending and household holdings of financial assets. The positives have been and will continue to outweigh the negatives.”
Some of those positives are also driving the housing market, which saw an uptick of 0.4 percent for existing home sales in January.
IHS analysts said in a separate report that “mortgage commitment rates peaked in early January, and have slowly but steadily declined through February. An improving labor market and higher incomes, in combination with price appreciation to encourage inventory expansion, are consistent with our expectation for continued balanced progress in the housing market.”