Stocks End Volatile Day Mixed

Wall Street shakes off most of its early losses as optimism for Obama's economic recovery plan helps dampen disappointment with December retail sales. Frank Curzio reviews the day in The Real Story.
Publish date:

Updated from 4:08 p.m. EST

Stocks on Wall Street pared early losses, prompted in part by disappointing retail sales numbers, to close mixed Thursday after the president elect delivered an urgent call to action with his economic recovery plan for the nation.


Dow Jones Industrial Average

down 118 points earlier in the session, ended lower by 27.24 points, or 0.3%, at 8742.46. The

S&P 500

edged up 3.08 points, or 0.3%, at 909.73, and the


gained 17.95 points, or 1.1%, to 1617.01.

The morning got off to a bleak start on Wall Street as retail numbers began to roll in much lower than expected. Retail, bank and U.S. automaker stocks posted the biggest declines on the Dow.


(AA) - Get Report



(MSFT) - Get Report

stood out with gains - 4.3% and 3.1% -- for the day after having led the decliners a day prior.


(WMT) - Get Report

shed 7.5% to $51.38, after it said December same-store sales were worse than Wall Street expected and reined in its fourth quarter guidance.


(M) - Get Report

, which said it will close underperforming stores, sank 3.4% to $10.93.


(TGT) - Get Report



(COST) - Get Report

said same-store sales fell about 4%. Target and Costco shares managed to improve 1.1% and 1.4%, nonetheless.


(GPS) - Get Report

said December sales fell 12%, and

Abercrombie & Fitch

(ANF) - Get Report

said sales slumped 18% and same-store sales took a 24% hit. Gap slipped 4.7% to $12.92, while Abercrombie declined 3.5% to $22.91.

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A bright spot,



shares added 23.3% to $49.98 after the company forecast quarterly profit above Wall Street estimates.

Meanwhile, the president elect pitched his economic stimulus plan. "It is time to set a new course for this economy, and that change must begin now," said President-elect Barack Obama. "Our goal is not to create a slew of new government programs, but a foundation for long term economic growth," he said.

Obama said the so-called

American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan

will provide, among other things, a $1,000 tax cut to 95% of working families, and the creation of jobs, particularly in clean energy and the private sector. Indeed, the scale of the $775 billion plan is unprecedented, but so is the severity of the situation, said Obama, who noted that it's altogether likely that things will get worse before they get better.

"Every day we wait, or point fingers, or drag our feet ... we will sink deeper into a crisis that at some point we may not be able to reverse," said Obama.

Elsewhere, the number of U.S. workers remaining on jobless rolls hit a new 26-year high. But the number filing new claims for

unemployment benefits

fell by 24,000 to a seasonally adjusted 467,000 last week, much better than the expectation for 545,000.

The Labor Department said the largest increases in initial claims for the week ending Dec. 27 were in Wisconsin, Michigan, Kansas, Massachusetts and New Jersey.

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The government will release non-farm payroll figures Friday, perhaps the most anticipated data of the week, with expectations for a drop of 500,000. But a report issued by ADP Employment Service on Wednesday forecast that private-sector employment fell by 693,000 in December, suggesting the nonfarm payroll numbers will have declined much more severely than expected.

The unemployment rate, as computed by the Labor Department, was 6.7% in November, and is expected to rise to 7% for December.

If you add in workers in part-time positions who cannot find full-time employment, the

hidden unemployment

rate is about 13%, according to Peter Morici, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Business and former chief economist at the U.S. International Trade Commission.

Not helping investor confidence, were the uncovering of more potential Ponzi schemes -- an illegal venture that brought market maker Bernard Madoff to recent infamy. Investment manager

Joseph Forte

, of Broomall, Pa, has been charged by federal authorities with running an investment scheme that involved roughly $50 million from as many as 80 investors.


Madoff's $50 billionscheme

is now being investigated by Britain's Serious Fraud Office, with a focus on his victims in the U.K.

Taking a look at commodities, oil fell 93 cents to settle at $41.70 a barrel, while gold added $12.80 to settle at $854.50 an ounce. The dollar was weaker against the euro, pound and yen.

Longer dated Treasuries were mixed early Thursday afternoon; the 10-year note was climbing 15/32 to yield 2.4% after an auction of $16 billion of reopened 10-year notes, and the 30-year was down 7/32, yielding 3.1%.

Indirect bidders, which include foreign central banks, took about 18% of the auction, in line with long-term averages, according to a


report. Typically, foreign demand for reopened auctions is less than for new issues, it noted.

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"For those worried that the U.S. will have difficulty raising money to fund its battle against the financial and economic crisis, today's data are welcome, wrote chief bond market strategist for Miller Tabak, Tony Crescenzi, in his

Real Money

blog. "Nevertheless, with U.S. borrowing needs continuous and growing, plenty of challenges lie ahead."

Overseas, the FTSE in London and the DAX in Frankfurt lost ground as did Japan's Nikkei and Hong Kong's Hang Seng.

Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. AP contributed to this report.