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US: Dow, S&P 500 hit by weak December retail sales

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[NEW YORK] Wall Street stocks finished mostly lower on Thursday following a disappointing retail sales report and mixed earnings.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.4 per cent to 25,439.39.

The broad-based S&P 500 shed 0.3 per cent to 2,745.73, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index added 0.1 per cent at 7,426.95.

Stocks were solidly negative much of the morning after the Commerce Department reported that US retail sales had dropped 1.2 per cent in December from the previous month, marking the largest month-to-month decrease since September of 2009.

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The report suggested US consumers held back during a peak holiday shopping season during a time that coincided with a plunge in the stock market.

Still, analysts were generally hesitant to see the figures as a sign of a slowing US economy, noting one-time factors that weighed on sentiment at the time.

"We never like to take one piece of the data and extrapolate, especially if you look at the 35-day long shutdown, tensions on the trade front, " said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at National.

"If it is a trend and it happens on other reports, then we will take it seriously."

The biggest loser in the Dow was Coca-Cola, which dived 8.4 per cent after unveiling a disappointing 2019 outlook.

The soda giant cited weakness in several emerging markets, including Turkey, Argentina and parts of Africa.

But Cisco Systems climbed 1.9 per cent after it released a better-than-expected earnings forecast and lifted its dividend.

AFP