US stock indices show signs of vulnerability

A triple-digit drop in the Dow today amidst a mixed picture of retail and car sales data reveals investor unease ahead of this week’s big economic releases.

The data released today has by no means been terrible: car manufacturers revealed robust sales for November, which forms the beginning of their big year-end sales push, with General Motors announcing sales rises of 16% year-on-year. Yet auto stocks have fallen today, Ford and GM both dropping more than 3%.

Online sales soared on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, with ComScore reporting cyber sales up 15% for Black Friday from last year. While this wasn’t enough to offset a decline in physical stores, it would seem to be a bullish sign for purely online retailers. Yet Amazon is down more than 2% today.

These aren’t huge price movements, and could well prove to be only short term, but they do seem suggestive of something brittle in the mind-set of investors currently.

The big guns in terms of economic reports are loaded toward the end of the week, with Friday’s employment situation report the most important indicator on the horizon, and third-quarter GDP also out on Thursday. Some of today’s stock-price retreat may simply be the normal build-up of anxiety ahead of an important juncture for the market therefore.

With under half an hour to the close of trading on Wall Street, the Dow was down 0.73% or 117 points at 15,891, while the S&P 500 slipped 0.44% to 1793.0.

Tomorrow we have ADP employment data and the ISM non-manufacturing index, both for November.

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