Markets Post Weekly Gain Despite Retail Slowdown

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- U.S. stocks posted their 12th weekly gain of 2013 compared to three weekly declines as the S&P 500 closed near its all-time high, propelled by record corporate profits and the Federal Reserve's asset-buying stimulus program.

The S&P retreated from its record high Friday after a pair of consumer reports dampened optimism about consumer strength amid renewed eurozone jitters even as the U.S. bellwether index advanced 2.3% for the week to 1,588.85.

"Stocks have more than doubled off the bottom, many investors have made a year's worth of returns in the last three months, and despite lackluster U.S. economic data and troublesome rumblings from Europe, U.S. stocks basically just go up," noted Nicholas Colas, chief market strategist at ConvergEx Group in New York.

Nonetheless, investor sentiment was tempered by data showing that the impact of the recession, most prominently in the form of joblessness, continues to weigh heavily on U.S. consumers.

The Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment index came in at a preliminary read of 72.3 for April, down from 78.6 in the final reading for March and below the print of 78.5 expected by economists, on average, according to Thomson Reuters.

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.

"Overall, this report adds to the emerging narrative of a sharper and earlier slowdown in economic activity than is currently being factored into the market expectation," Millan Mulraine, a senior economist at TD Securities in New York, wrote in a note.

JPMorgan Chase ( JPM) and Wells Fargo ( WFC) were weighing on the major averages, both dipping after their first-quarter announcements.

Wells Fargo was dropping 0.8% to $37.21 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 fell 0.6% to $49.01 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.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was little changed on the day at 14,865.06 while the Nasdaq was shedding 0.2% to 3,294.95.

Apple ( AAPL ) was off 1% to $429.80 after RBC Capital analyst Amit Daryanani cut his price target on the stock to $550 from $600 and reiterated his outperform view on the iPhone. The analyst explained that the company might have faced weaker demand for its products in March but that that may pick up in the second half of the year on expectations that it will launch a low-cost iPhone and premium iPhone 5S in July, and anticipation of September upgrades of the iPad and iPad mini and the unveiling of the iOS 7 at the Worldwide Developers Conference in June.

Business inventories, whose rise can indicate business optimism that sales will improve in the upcoming months, also disappointed, with the Census Bureau reporting an uptick of 0.1% in February compared with an upwardly-revised 0.9% increase for January and the average economist expectation of a 0.4% rise in February.

C.H. Robinson Worldwide ( CHRW ) was losing 2.6% to $59 after the third party logistics company was downgraded to "underperform" from "outperform" with the price target lowered to $55 from $80 by FBR Capital analyst John Mims who wrote that the stock has " sold off dramatically following six of its last eight earnings releases, and we believe there could be a material stepdown after the company reports first quarter results, based on freight brokerage results from J.B. Hunt and general caution regarding the brokerage industry."

J.B. Hunt Transport Services ( JBHT ) reported Thursday lower-than-expected first-quarter earnings after its truck segment revenue fell 21% driven by a reduction in its fleet. Shares were down 2.2% to $72.01.

J.C. Penney ( JCP) was sliding 1.6% to $14.62 after The Wall Street Journal reported that the struggling department-store chain has hired bankers at Blackstone Group ( BX) for advice on how the company can raise $1 billion in cash, citing people familiar with the matter.

One option could be to sell a minority stake in Penney, and the company has reached out to and heard from possible investors including private-equity firms, the people told the newspaper.

The latest news follows the retailer's move on Monday to oust CEO Ron Johnson after 17 months on the job.

The FTSE 100 in the U.K. was falling 0.61% and the DAX in Germany was down 1.72%.

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 the European Union and 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 bailouts 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 surging 16/32, diluting the yield to 1.736%. The dollar was unchanged at $82.23 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.

Written by Andrea Tse in New York

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

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