Friday’s Mid-Day Movers: 3 Stories Driving Markets

U.S. stocks headed for negative territory on Friday afternoon. A decline in retail sales revitalized concerns that U.S. economic growth may not be as healthy as some had anticipated. At 1:15 p.m.:

DJIA: -0.03% to 14,861.20 S&P 500: -0.47% to 1,585.88 NASDAQ: -0.28% to 3,290.88
Gold: -3.82% to $1,505.10 per ounce Oil: -2.71% to $90.98 per barrel U.S. 10-Year: -0.065 points to 1.725%

Here are three stories moving markets on Friday afternoon:

1) Will Retail Sales Bring the Economy to a Screeching Halt? Retail sales figures have faced comparison to strong numbers from last year, and they have not stood up well. Early in the year, the consumer spending growth thesis put forward by many analysts, pundits, and even several retailers themselves postulated that the end of the payroll tax holiday would cause the majority of Americans to tighten their financial belts and cut way back on discretionary spending. This reality now seems to be materializing.

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In March, retail sales were held back by the scant progress made in the labor market over the same period. Combined with little growth in wages, Americans found it difficult to spend, which is concern for economists as consumer spending accounts for approximately 70 percent of the economy… (Read more.)

2) Will Food or Energy Drive Inflation Higher? The seasonally-adjusted Producer Price Index for finished good decreased 0.6 percent month over month in March, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This compares against expectations for a decline of 0.2 percent. On the year, producer prices increased 1.1 percent.

Monthly changes in the headline PPI index are generally volatile because of fluctuations in food and energy prices. In March, the finished foods index increased 0.8 percent, led by a 21.5 percent surge in the index for fresh and dry vegetables. Meanwhile, the finished energy index declined 3.4 percent, led by a 6.8 percent decline in the gasoline index, which accounted for more than 80 percent of the total change… (Read more.)

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3) Consumer Sentiment Hits Nine-Month Low: Despite the recent rally in stock prices, consumers are still feeling down about the economy as Main Street struggles to recover from the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

The index of consumer sentiment compiled by Thomson Reuters and the University of Michigan plunged to 72.3 in April, compared to 78.6 in March. It is a preliminary reading, but it is the lowest level of sentiment since July 2012 and the biggest miss of expectations on record. The reading was lower than all 69 estimates in a Bloomberg survey. On average, economists projected the index to come in unchanged at 78.6… (Read more.)

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