Dow Heads Lower Despite Better Than Expected Retail Sales


Blue-chip stocks are generally lower this afternoon even though retail sales for the month of April came in better than economists had forecasted. With roughly an hour left in the trading session, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is off by 44 points, or 0.29%.

The Commerce Department released data today showing that Americans opened their wallets last month more so than in March. On a sequential basis, seasonally adjusted retail sales increased by 0.1%. And on a year-over-year basis, the growth rate came in at 3.7%. The advance was led primarily by e-commerce and auto sales. Non-store retailers saw their revenues increase by 15.4% from 2012, while auto and other motor vehicle dealers experienced growth of 8.8%.

According to an economist quoted by Bloomberg News, "Consumers are staying active and providing support to the economy." He went on to note, however, that, "We will see a slowdown this quarter, but it won't be dramatic. There will be some damping of spending due to the payroll tax, but it will be mild."

Shares of Home Depot are up by 0.76% on the heels of this news. This is likely due to the fact that sales of building materials and garden equipment were the highest performing retail category in the Commerce Department's report, up by 1.5% over March and 4.1% relative to the same month last year.

Also headed higher today are shares of JPMorgan Chase , gaining 1% at the time of writing. The nation's largest bank by assets faces a critical shareholder vote at the beginning of next week to decide whether or not Jamie Dimon will be allowed to retain both his CEO and chairmanship positions. Two large proxy advisory firms recently came out in favor of splitting the roles, though the bank's three biggest shareholders remain undecided and could very well support Dimon in this regard.

On the other side of the spectrum, shares of Alcoa are the worst performing component on the Dow this afternoon, down by 1.8% with an hour remaining before the market closes. As my colleague Matt Thalman discussed earlier today, the move comes after China reported disappointing industrial production figures for April. According to the government report, production expanded in the country by 9.3% last month. While that beat the March figure, it was nevertheless below the consensus estimate of 9.5%.

Materials industries are traditionally known for their high barriers to entry, and the aluminum industry is no exception. Controlling about 15% of global production in this highly consolidated industry, Alcoa is in prime position to take advantage of growth that some expect will lead to total industry revenue approaching $160 billion by 2017. Based on this prospect and several other company-specific factors, Alcoa is certainly worth a closer look. For a Foolish investment perspective on this global giant simply click here now to get started.

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John Maxfield has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Home Depot. The Motley Fool owns shares of JPMorgan Chase. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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