U.S. retail sales drop hurts world stock markets

June numbers reinforce fears that economic recovery is stuttering

Published July 14, 2010 8:30PM (EDT)

European and U.S. stock markets fell Wednesday after weaker than expected U.S. retail sales figures for June reignited fears about the pace of the recovery in the world's largest economy.

In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was down 48.07 points, or 0.9 percent, at 5,222.95 while Germany's DAX fell 23.68 points, or 0.4 percent, to 6,167.45. The CAC-40 in France was 32.47 points, or 0.9 percent, lower at 3,605.29.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 32.25 points, or 0.3 percent, at 10,330.77 soon after the open while the broader Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 4.57 points, or 0.4 percent, at 1,090.77.

U.S. stocks had earlier been expected to open solidly higher before the Commerce Department reported that U.S. retail sales fell by a greater than anticipated 0.5 percent in June. That followed a 1.1 percent fall in May and provided further evidence that the recovery in the U.S. is stuttering. Excluding autos, spending was down 0.1 percent in June.

"June's retail sales figures add to the growing batch of evidence suggesting that the economic recovery shifted into a lower gear towards the end of the second quarter," said Paul Dales, U.S. economist at Capital Economics.

U.S. retail figures are particularly important because they shine a light on the state of consumption in the United States , a key driver of growth. The U.S. retail spending accounts for around 70 percent of the world's largest economy.

Michael Carey, an analyst at Credit Agricole, said that the Juen figures mean that U.S. consumer spending "likely slowed from a 3 percent annual rate in the first quarter to below 2.5 percent in the second."

The data were also disappointing in light of a solid start to the U.S. corporate earnings reporting season, from the likes of aluminum company Alcoa Inc. and Intel Corp., the world's biggest chipmaker.

Intel's after-hours statement on Tuesday had helped Asian stocks close higher.

Japan's Nikkei 225 stock average climbed 258.01 points, or 2.7 percent, to close at 9,795.24 -- shrugging off concerns that the ruling party's loss of its upper house majority will slow economic reforms.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.6 percent to 20,560.81 and South Korea's Kospi added 1.3 percent to 1,758.01. Higher metals prices and data showing rising consumer confidence pushed Australia's S&P/ASX 200 up 1.9 percent to 4,462.40.

More good economic news came out of Singapore, which raised its forecast for economic growth this year to a range of 13 percent to 15 percent from the previous forecast of 7 percent to 9 percent. It also raised its forecast for export growth as global demand has stayed strong amid Europe's debt and fiscal crisis.

Singapore, which has the highest percentage of millionaires in the world, is often seen as a barometer of world demand because its economy -- built on manufacturing and services like finance -- is one of the most export-reliant in Asia.

Singapore's benchmark was up 0.7 percent to 2,949.49 and the Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.8 percent to 2,470.44. Markets in Taiwan, Indonesia, New Zealand and Malaysia also rose.

Oil prices hovered above $77 a barrel after a report showed U.S. crude supplies rose unexpectedly last week, suggesting demand for fuel remains tepid. Benchmark crude for August delivery was down 71 cents to $76.44 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange

In the currency markets, the dollar was down 0.4 percent at 88.31 yen while the euro fell 0.2 percent to $1.2703.


Associated Press Writer Pamela Sampson in Bangkok contributed to this report.

By Pan Pylas


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