NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The S&P 500I:GSPC was on track to snap five straight weeks of gains on Friday after upbeat retail sales numbers supported expectations of a tweak in language about interest rates at next week's Federal Open Market Committee meeting.
"The strong retail sales report will allay one crucial concern at the Fed about the soggy spending performance to start the quarter, thereby increasing the Fed's confidence about the recovery," said Millan Mulraine, deputy head of U.S. research and strategy at TD Securities. Mulraine said there's a high possibility this will raise the odds of the "considerable time" reference regarding keeping rates low being removed at next week's meeting.
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The Dow Jones Industrial AverageI:DJI was down 0.41% to 16,979.72 in early afternoon trading. The S&P 500 fell 0.57% to 1,986.18. The NasdaqI:IXIC was off 0.47% to 4,569.99. The 10-year Treasury yield rose to nearly 2.6% while the SPDR Gold Trust (GLD) - Get Report lost 0.75% to $118.57 as investors priced in expectations of the Fed's first rate hike taking place in the first quarter of 2015.
Retail sales jumped by an as-expected 0.6% in August, and July's previously flat retail sales reading was upwardly revised to a 0.3% increase, the Census Bureau reported. The report was the most important data point of the week since last week's tepid job report.
In widely watched corporate news Friday, Darden Restaurants (DRI) - Get Report was down 1.8% to $47.44 after swinging to a quarterly loss of 14 cents a share as U.S. same-store sales dropped 1.3% at its struggling Olive Garden chain. Activist shareholder StarboardValue on Friday laid out a detailed transformation plan for Darden that it said could unlock $19 to $38 a share in value, and includes a turnaround strategy for Olive Garden.
Apple (AAPL) - Get Report was up 0.71% to $102.15 after its online store experienced a few hiccups Friday amid the enormous demand for its new iPhone 6 Plus. The Apple Store Web site said pre-orders for the devices won't be shipping until next month.
"Response to iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus has been incredible, with a record number of pre-orders overnight," Apple told TheStreet.
Alliance Data Systems (ADS) - Get Report , which manages credit cards and loyalty programs for retailers, agreed to buy digital marketing company Conversant (CNVR) for about $2.3 billion. Conversant soared 30.36% to $34.81 while Alliance Data advanced 2.35% to $258.80.
Ulta Salon (ULTA) - Get Report , the beauty products retailer, saw its shares surge 18.47% to $115.36 after it reported better-than-expected second-quarter results and raised its outlook for the year.
-- By Andrea Tse in New York