Out of the gate, U.S. stocks were sluggish as traders were cautious following a drop in crude oil prices. They also were weighing the latest economic data out of China to see if ongoing weakness is here for the longer term.
As a result, the Dow Jones Industrial opened flat at 17,926 while the S&P 500 fell 0.1 percent to 2,081. The S&P 500 Retailing Industry Group Index was down 0.1 percent to 1,278. Crude oil was down 2.6 percent to $40.42.
The decliners included The Bon-Ton Stores Inc. with a 4.4 percent drop at the bell to $2.16, and Under Armour Inc. with a 2.4 percent decline to $42.44. Vince Holding Corp. shed 2.3 percent to $6.04.
The gainers at the bell were: Ascena Retail Group Inc. with a 1.9 percent increase to $9.58; Cherokee Inc. with a 4.8 percent gain to $17.57, which was up following a positive quarterly reporter after market Thursday, and Chico’s FAS Inc. with a 6.1 percent gain to $13.39.
Shares of Nordstrom Inc. were off 0.5 percent to $51.05 at the opening following a Fitch Ratings report. Fitch Ratings said it affirmed its issuer default rating on Nordstrom Inc. at “BBB+” and gave it a “stable” outlook. The firm said Nordstrom’s top- and bottom-line has been consistent, and that the “ratings reflect Nordstrom’s position as a market share consolidator in the apparel, footwear and accessories space, differentiated merchandise and a high level of customer service which have enabled the company to enjoy strong customer loyalty.”
The analysts noted that the retailer has a “well-developed offering and footprint in the full-price, off-price and online channels which should enable the company to generate mid-single digit top-line growth over the intermediate term.” They also noted that the retailer is better positioned in the market than its peers.
The ratings firm said it expects the retailer‘s “comps to grow in the low-single digits and overall top-line to grow 4 percent to 5 percent, primarily driven by continued growth in its online sales and Rack businesses” along with strength within key product segments. But Fitch also noted an overall slowing in the apparel market.
Regarding China, real gross domestic product showed a growth that decelerated to 6.7 percent in the first quarter, “slightly above expectations,” noted Brian Jackson, China economist at IHS Global Insight.
Jackson said in the near term, “the first quarter data sharply lowers the chance of monetary policy easing. Stronger-than-expected growth in the first quarter does not change our expectations of growth deteriorating in the second quarter. That continued slowdown will remain concentrated especially in finance.”