NEW YORK, New York - Wall Street finished finished with a whimper on Thursday, recouping some ground after heavier, earlier falls precipitated by weaker U.S. retail sales.
Strong oil prices pushed energy stocks higher, helping to save the day.
"Between supply issues out of Venezuela and Saudi Arabia and implications for demand swirling around the market as a result of the US-China trade war, the crude oil and distillate markets have been subjected to a tug-of-war that has kept prices severely range-bound," David Thompson, executive vice-president at Powerhouse, an energy-specialized commodities broker in Washington told the Reuters Thjomson news agency.
Retail sales in the U.S. fell 1.2% in December, a result that shocked the markets as it was the biggest fall since the GFC.
"Until this morning, Fed official hesitance to hike further was based on risks emanating from global growth and from financial markets, despite a strong domestic outlook," Andrew Hollenhorst, an economist at Citigroup in New York. "The decline in retail sales calls into question the domestic growth assumption," was quoted by Thomson Reuters as saying.
At the close of trading Thursday the Dow Jones industrials were down 103.91 points or 0.41% at 25,439.39.
The Standard and Poor's 500 dipped 7.30 points or 0.27% to 2,745.73.
The Nasdaq Composite gained 6.57 points or 0.09% to 7,426.95.
The U.S. dollar was mixed. Around the New York close Thursday the euro had lifted to 1.1295, but was struggliong to hurdle the crucial 1.1300 mantle.
The British pound however dropped to 1.2799 on news that Theresa May's government had another defeat in parliament. The House of Commons voted 303-258 against Ms. May's Plan B proposal to exit the European Union, which is slated to occur on 29 March 2019.
The Japanese yen was in demand, rising to 110.51. The Swiss franc was little changed at 1.005.
The Canadian dollar weakened to 1.3295. The Australian dollar gained fractionally to 0.7104 while trhe New Zealand dollar was little changed at 0.6836.