February retail reports were not as disappointing as January numbers, as tighter inventory control and milder weather gave retailers and related exchange traded funds(ETFs) a break for the month.
Retail. Wal-Mart (WMT) had gained the most, outdoing expectations, however, higher end stores still had a tough month. Anne D’Innocenzio for the Associated Press reports that the month showed a widening rift between moderately priced stores and luxury chains such as Saks Inc. (SKS). Mall-based clothing retailers saw a sales decline, too, but not as bad as analysts had been predicting. Moreover, there is no sign of a recovery, as numbers are up, but not enough.
- SPDR S&P Retail (XRT): down 5.4% year-to-date; down 1.3% for one month
Factory Orders. The factory orders report took stocks on a downslide, as well, after China deflated investors’ hopes that it would take new steps to stimulate its economy. The news that China could unveil more government spending to help its economy was a major factor behind the market’s bounce Wednesday; the rally followed a five-day pummeling that left the market at its lowest levels since 1997, reports Madlen Read for the Associated Press.
Cars. Auditors for General Motors (GM) are substantially doubting the ability of the car maker to rebound and continue operations. Tom Krishner for the Associated Press reports that the company said it may have to seek bankruptcy protection if it can’t execute a huge restructuring plan.
GM has received $13.4 billion in federal loans as it tries to survive the worst auto sales climate in 27 years. It is seeking a total of $30 billion from the government.
Jobs. The number of new jobless claims and the total number of people receiving unemployment benefits both dropped more than expected last week. This doesn’t mean the turnaround is here, though. Levels will remain elevated and layoffs are still occurring by the thousands, reports Christopher S. Rugaber for the Associated Press. The tally of initial requests for unemployment benefits fell to 639,000 from the previous week’s figure of 670,000, the Labor Department said Thursday.
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