US stocks slip as investors seek safety after weak sales data

US stocks slip as investors seek safety after weak sales data

US stocks dipped Wednesday as investors worried about weak retail sales and oil prices sank.

The Federal Reserve raised interest rates for the third time in six months.

The Commerce Department said retail spending decreased in May, which surprised experts.

Investors reacted by buying traditionally safe assets like government bonds and high-dividend companies while selling stocks from other industries that depend more on economic growth.

Bond yields hit their lowest level of 2017. Oil prices also hit an annual low after the government's weekly report on oil stockpiles.

In the last few weeks Wall Street has been disappointed by several economic reports. That did not appear to change the Fed's thinking even though higher interest rates tend to slow down economic growth.

For years investors have been hoping growth will hit a faster pace.

"This economy has always been something of a healthy tortoise," said David Kelly, chief global strategist at JPMorgan Asset Management.

"I think growth will pick up a bit, but there is sort of a failure to bounce in this economy."

The Standard & Poor's 500 index slid 2.43 points, or 0.1%, to 2,437.92.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 46.09 points, or 0.2%, to a record 21,374.56.

Home Depot and Goldman Sachs contributed most of the blue-chip index's gain.

After a late tumble in technology stocks, the Nasdaq composite lost 25.48 points, or 0.4%, to 6,194.89.

Small-company stocks fell more than the rest of the market. The Russell 2000 index sank 8.41 points, or 0.6%, to 1,417.57. That suggests investors are worried about the economy, which could have an outsize effect on smaller, domestically-focused companies.

The Federal Reserve raised interest rates for the third time since December, something investors widely expected based on the Fed's recent statements. Fed leaders suggested they still expect to raise rates again later in the year.

The Commerce Department said people spent less money at petrol stations, department stores and electronics retailers last month. Video game seller GameStop gave up 35 cents, or 1.6%, to 21.55 dollars and department store chain Kohl's dropped 38 cents, or 1%, to 37.66 dollars.

In a separate report, the Labour Department said consumer prices slipped, partly because of lower energy prices. That is one reason there has been little inflation in the economy lately, a continued concern for Federal Reserve policymakers.

Bond prices jumped. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.13% from 2.21%. Earlier, the 10-year note hit its lowest level since November.

Among big dividend payers, cereal maker General Mills rose 58 cents, or 1%, to 58.64 dollars and PepsiCo advanced 1.05 dollars to 117.37 dollars. American Water Works rose 1.14 dollars, or 1.4%, to 81.32 dollars.

Oil futures plunged after the U.S. government said oil supplies shrank only slightly last week while petrol stockpiles grew. Benchmark US crude fell 1.73 dollars, or 3.7%, to settle at 44.73 dollars a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, shed 1.72 dollars, or 3.5%, to close at 47 dollars a barrel in London.

Exxon Mobil lost 89 cents, or 1.1%, to 82.07 dollars and Anadarko Petroleum sank 1.94 dollars, or 3.9%, to 47.28 dollars.

The Fed also gave more details about its plans to shrink its bond portfolio. Later this year it will reduce the amount of principal payments it invests in new bonds. It does not plan to sell any bonds.

Biotech drugmaker Biogen fell and competitor Alexion Pharmaceuticals rose after the companies said Biogen chief financial officer Paul Clancy will become Alexion's chief financial officer at the end of July. Analysts said Wall Street has a lot of respect for Clancy, who has been Biogen's chief financial officer for 10 years.

Biogen gave up 8.05 dollars, or 3.1%, to 253.37 dollars and Alexion jumped 10 dollars, or 9.3%, to 118 dollars.


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