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Market May Finally Dip as Retail Slumps

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Stock futures fell further Friday, signaling the S&P 500 will retreat from all-time highs, after a retail sales report indicated consumer strength weakened in March and amid renewed eurozone jitters.

Futures for the S&P 500 were down 7.75 points, or 8.12 points below fair value, at 1,580

The Census Bureau said retail sales dropped 0.4% in March after rising by a downwardly-revised 1% in February. Economists, on average, were expecting an unchanged reading, according to Thomson Reuters.

Excluding the auto component, the reading also fell 0.4% after an increase of 1%. Economists were forecasting an unchanged reading.

"Given the marked slowdown in March, it appears the economy is starting the second quarter on a much weaker footing than we anticipated," Millan Mulraine, a senior economist at TD Securities in New York, wrote in a note.

Retail sales fell by 0.4% in March compared to February sales on an adjusted basis, to $418.3 billion, according to data released Friday by the Commerce Department.

JPMorgan Chase (JPM) and Wells Fargo (WFC) were both dipping after their first-quarter announcements.

Wells Fargo was down 1.4% in pre-market trading to $37 on falling interest margins and declining mortgage banking revenue. The country's fourth largest bank by assets posted net income for the first quarter that did beat analyst estimates.

JPMorgan Chase was falling 0.7% to $48.95 after reporting that revenue for the first quarter was $25.85 billion, down 3% year-over-year. The bank's first quarter profit rose 33% year-over-year on the back of higher revenues and improved credit quality in its consumer banking business.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were falling 62 points, or 63.14 points below fair value, at 14,734 while futures for the Nasdaq were shedding 15 points, or 14.37 points below fair value, at 2,838.25.

J.C. Penney (JCP) has hired bankers at Blackstone Group (BX) for advice on how the struggling department-store chain can raise $1 billion in cash, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter. Shares were sliding 1.88% to $14.58.

LinkedIn (LNKD) agreed to pay about $90 million to acquire Pulse, which makes an e-reader platform used on mobile devices. The deal is expected to close in the second quarter. Pulse's e-reader applications are used by more than 30 million people worldwide. Shares were down 1.18% to $178.05.

The FTSE 100 in the U.K. was falling 0.48% and the DAX in Germany was down 1.63%.

Ahead of a two-day eurozone finance ministers meeting in Dublin that starts Friday, it was revealed that Cyprus would need to handle the burden of raising an extra € 6 billion to secure a €10 billion in financial aid from European Union and the IMF after Cyprus' creditors said in a draft document that the cost of the bailout has increased to € 23 billion from € 17.5 billion.

Discussing how Cyprus can go about raising the funds were a top item on the agenda at the finance ministers' meeting.

"The dramatic increase in the size of the proposed 'rescue' package for Cyprus both underlines the depth of the problems facing the country and poses further questions over the likely impact of future euro-zone bail-outs on depositors and bondholders," said Julian Jessop, chief international economist at Capital Economics Ltd. in London, in a note Thursday.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury was rising 13/32, diluting the yield to 1.746%. The dollar was increasing by 0.18% to $82.41 according to the U.S. dollar index.

"Treasury bonds have rallied 3.5 basis points overnight ... reflects renewed tensions in Europe and a weaker DAX," noted Richard Gilhooly, an interest-rate strategist at Toronto-Dominion Bank's TD Securities unit in New York.

At 9:55 a.m. the Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment index is forecast to show a read of 78.5 for April, down from 78.6 in the final reading for March.

The Census Bureau at 10 a.m. is expected to say that total business inventories, which can indicate business optimism that sales will improve in the upcoming months, increased 0.4% in February after rising 1% in January.

At 12:30 p.m., Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke speaks to a community development conference in Washington.

Written by Andrea Tse in New York

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Andrea Tse.

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