Retail exchange traded funds (ETFs) posted some losses this week. Where have all the shoppers gone?

Retailer J.C. Penny (JCP) had a lowered outlook, reports Tomi Kilgore for Thomson Financial, with a bitter sentiment toward the sector. So far this week, it’s down 14.8%. The company is 2% of the SPDR S&P Retail (XRT), which is down 5.6% this week.

The Consumer Discretionary SPDR (XLY) is down 5.5% this week. Retail HOLDRs (RTH) is down 2.1% for the week.

Consumers’ confidence has been hurt by a credit crunch, job cuts, rising energy prices, all of which resulted in the weakest spending performance in 17 months, ended February, reports Martin Crutsinger for Forbes. The Commerce Department said today that spending rose by just 0.1% last month.

The weakness of consumer spending is the number-one sign a recession may be under way, says one analyst. Although the Federal government has stepped in by cutting rates, some say it is too late to avoid at least a mild downturn.

For full disclosure, Tom Lydon’s clients own shares of RTH.

The opinions and forecasts expressed herein are solely those of Tom Lydon, and may not actually come to pass. Information on this site should not be used or construed as an offer to sell, a solicitation of an offer to buy, or a recommendation for any product.