Stocks Fall on Retail Sales Data

U.S. stocks fell on Tuesday after fresh data showed Americans slowed their spending last month.The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 0.2%, while the S&P 500 lost 0.1% and the Nasdaq Composite slid 0.6%. The latter two set fresh record highs on Monday. The market is watching a two-day Federal Reserve policy meeting for any signs that the central bank is thinking about altering its monetary policy as the economy recovers from the pandemic-induced recession.

The Fed cut interest rates to the bone last year in hopes of bolstering economic activity, fueling the stock-market rally that drove inflation higher.

“In the end, can the Fed keep the party going long enough for the rest of us to get to the party?” asked

Societe Generale

strategist Kit Juckes about the low rates. “What else matters?”

Recent data from the Commerce Department showed that retail spending fell 1.3% in May. Supply-chain disruptions and business reopenings are triggering a consumer spending shift from goods to services. A Labor Department report showed that producer prices continue to rise, adding to the inflationary pressures building in the U.S. economy.

That mix, rising inflation and slowing spending, might add to the complicated picture of the economy, but it isn’t likely to force the Fed’s hand, most analysts think.

“Investors seem a bit more convinced the Fed will do what it says it is going to do and stay put,” said Edward Smith, head of asset allocation research at U.K. investment firm Rathbone Investment Management. “That should mean we have relatively easy financial conditions and that should be good for equity markets.”

Real Estate, materials and technology stocks were pacing the stock market’s laggards. Tech leaders Apple,

Amazon,

Alphabet,

Facebook

and

Microsoft

were all lower Tuesday morning.

On the other hand, energy was the best performing group in the S&P 500. Investors are betting that Wall Street’s preference for green energy will cut spending on oil extraction, setting a stage for supply shortages and higher prices.

On Monday, U.S. crude prices hit their highest level in more than 2 1/2 years. On Tuesday, prices kept rising, up 1.6% at $71.99.

Other commodities markets were falling. The most surprising beneficiary of the Fed’s largesse may have been the lumber market, which skyrocketed amid a housing boom. Over the last week, however, prices have coming crashing down.

Lumber futures at

CME Group Inc.

rose 3% on Tuesday afternoon to $1,025, after falling in the morning. Over the last week, though, lumber prices have fallen more than 40%.

Copper prices fell amid jitters about possible Chinese measures to tamp down rising commodity prices. The price of copper to be delivered in three months declined 1.3% on the London Metal Exchange to $9,900 a metric ton.

In bond markets, the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note was up slightly at 1.503% on Monday. Yields fall when prices rise.

Overseas, the pan-continental Stoxx Europe 600 ticked up 0.1%. The index has closed at a record for the previous seven trading sessions.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 rose almost 1% by the close of trading, and South Korea’s Kospi Index gained 0.2%. China’s Shanghai Composite Index declined 0.9% and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index retreated 0.7%.

Investors expect stocks will climb through the rest of the year due to easy monetary policies.

Photo:

Courtney Crow/Associated Press

Write to Caitlin Ostroff at caitlin.ostroff@wsj.com and Paul Vigna at paul.vigna@wsj.com

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