Promising US retail data fuels optimism

STOCKS were little changed yesterday after promising data from the retail sector fed recent optimism that the economic recovery, while slow, is proceeding.

Retailers were a bright spot after data showed US retail sales rose in August for their largest gain in five months. Best Buy’s higher-than-expected quarterly profit and raised outlook validated the government figures. The S&P Retail index rose 1.2 per cent.

The broad S&P 500 index stayed above its 200-day moving average of around 1,115 after closing beyond that level on Monday for the first time since early August.

Wall Street analysts have eyed the 1,130 level as a key resistance point for the benchmark index, which could mean a strong move higher if it can pierce that target.

“We went through the 200-day yesterday, stayed above it today. It’s only natural that we consolidate here a little bit, but if we punch through here, we will see 1,200,” said Stephen Massocca, managing director at Wedbush Morgan in San Francisco.

Gains were capped as financial shares gave back recent gains leading up to the Basel III rules, which set new capital regulations for banks.

After hitting an eight-month low on August 30, the KBW Bank index jumped nearly 12 per cent leading into the Basel announcement before falling 1.4 per cent yesterday.

JPMorgan Chase & Co chief executive Jamie Dimon said in an investor presentation the new capital rules are expected to increase bank loan prices for customers and may drive some to seek financing from non-bank financial institutions. Shares slipped 1 percent to $40.72.

Helping sentiment tomorrow was a further decline in the US dollar, which may indicate investors are turning away from safe-haven assets.

The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 17.64 points, or 0.17 per cent, to 10,526.49. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index shed 0.80 points, or 0.07 per cent, to 1,121.10. The Nasdaq Composite Index gained 4.06 points, or 0.18 per cent, to 2,289.77.

Volume was light with about 7.2bn shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange, the American Stock Exchange and Nasdaq, well below last year’s daily average of 9.65bn.