More pain for department stores pulls US stock indexes lower

Shares of department stores sank again Friday, hurt by more evidence that shoppers are turning away from them. A drop in Treasury yields also put pressure on bank stocks, and the weakness helped pull the Standard & Poor’s 500 index down modestly.

The S&P 500 is on pace for its first weekly loss in the last four, though it remains close to its record.

KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 fell 4 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,390 as of 10:23 a.m. Eastern time. It nevertheless remains within half a percent of its record, set on Wednesday.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 25 points, or 0.1 percent, to 20,893, and the Nasdaq composite rose 1 point to 6,117. Small-company stocks fell more than the rest of the market. The Russell 2000 index lost 7 points, or 0.5 percent, to 1,382.

NOSEDIVE: Nordstrom plunged $3.50, or 7.6 percent, to $42.59, the biggest loss in the S&P 500, after a key sales figure weakened last month by more than analysts expected. It joined a long list of other department-store chains which have reported discouraging results recently, as their customers increasingly head online.

J.C. Penney fell 51 cents, or 9.6 percent, to $4.78 after it reported a loss for its latest quarter and weaker revenue than analysts expected.

ELSEWHERE, WALLETS OPEN UP: Outside of department stores, shoppers picked up their spending last month, and retail sales rose 0.4 percent from March. That was below economists’ expectations, but it’s an acceleration from weak levels registered earlier in the year. It also may be an indication that the economy will indeed pick up from its early-year torpor, as many economists predict.

PRICES RISE: Consumer prices also picked up a bit of momentum in April. Prices rose 0.2 percent last month, following a drop of 0.3 percent in March, as energy prices climbed higher. But after excluding energy and food prices, inflation was a weaker last month than economists were expecting.

The Federal Reserve is paying close attention to inflation as it raises interest rates off their record lows, particularly where it is after excluding energy and food prices, which can be volatile.

YIELDS: Bond yields dropped as Treasury prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 2.33 percent from 2.40 percent late Thursday. The two-year yield dropped to 1.29 percent from 1.34 percent, and the 30-year yield fell to 3.00 from 3.03 percent.

CASCADE EFFECT: Bank stocks have recently been trading in the opposite direction of Treasury yields, because a pickup in interest rates would allow banks to make bigger profits from making loans.

Financial stocks in the S&P 500 fell 0.6 percent, most among the 11 sectors that make up the index.

On the winning side were utilities and telecom stocks, whose relatively big dividends look more attractive when bonds are paying less in interest.

MARKETS ABROAD: In Europe, the French CAC 40 rose 0.2 percent, the German DAX gained 0.2 percent and the FTSE 100 in London picked up 0.4 percent. In Asia,…

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