Wall Street logged modest declines at the opening as investors took a wait-and-see approach to the Federal Reserve’s latest gathering on interest rates.
Although the central bank is expected to keep interest rates steady, all eyes will be on Fed Chairman Janet Yellen, who will hold an afternoon press conference and detail her latest thinking on the economy. Investors hang on Yellen’s every word, since a rise in interest rates, although a sign the economy is strengthening, makes it less lucrative to trade.
Shortly after the opening bell, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was off 18.08 points to 17,233.45, and the S&P 500 Retailing Industry Group slipped 0.3 percent to 1,242.53. Among the fashion companies losing ground were, Fossil Group Inc., off 6.3 percent to $43.92; Iconix Brand Group Inc., 3.3 percent to $7.93; Destination XL Group Inc., 3.1 percent to $4.77, and Gap Inc., 2.9 percent to $28.86.
Among the gainers was Bon-Ton Stores Inc., which was up 2.3 percent to $2.40, making up some of the ground lost in a 10 percent decline Tuesday after the company reported its net income declined in the fourth quarter. Like other retailers, Bon-Ton was hit by the unseasonably warm weather, a supercharged promotional scene and traffic declines at malls. It’s earnings fell 29.4 percent to $50.6 million for the holiday quarter.
The Fed usually raises interest rates to fend off the inflation that comes with a growing economy. But while the economy is seen as expanding, prices have not risen. The Labor Department said its February reading of Consumer Price Index fell 0.2 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis.
Apparel prices, however, did show some strength, rising 1.6 percent, bucking what has generally been a deflationary trend.