Retailer stocks rise again, but tech leads other stocks lower

Retailers and smaller U.S. companies jumped again Friday as they continued to report strong third-quarter results, but technology companies and other big U.S. corporations couldn't add to Thursday's gains.

A slew of retailers — including discount chain Ross Stores, shoe store Foot Locker and clothing companies Gap and Abercrombie & Fitch — soared after issuing strong results or forecasts. Wal-Mart helped kick off a retail rally Thursday. Technology, healthcare and industrial companies slumped; on Thursday, they led stocks to their biggest gain in two months.

Investors have liked what they've seen from retailers the past two days. Invesco Global Market Strategist Kristina Hooper said the companies are giving a double dose of good news. Consumers are spending more, and there are signs some companies are figuring out how to survive even as purchases are increasingly made online.

“Businesses are starting to evolve and alter their models and may be able to survive quite well in very changed circumstances,” she said. “This is only the beginning of what they're going to need to do to stay competitive.”

The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 6.79 points, or 0.3%, to 2,578.85. The Dow Jones industrial average declined 100.12 points, or 0.4%, to 23,358.24. The Nasdaq composite fell 10.50 points, or 0.2%, to 6,782.79; on Thursday, it closed at a record high.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller and more U.S.-focused stocks climbed 5.94 points, or 0.4%, to 1,492.82. Most of the companies on the New York Stock Exchange rose.

The S&P 500 finished slightly lower for the second week in a row after an eight-week winning streak.

Ross Stores jumped 10% to $72.25 after reporting profit and sales that were greater than expected and raising its forecast for the rest of the year. The discount retailer said its business remained strong even though it dealt with the effects of several major hurricanes.

Gap, too, did better than expected as sales at Old Navy and Athleta improved and it cut spending. Its stock climbed 7% to $29.40.

Foot Locker surged 28.2% to $40.82 after posting a solid quarter and saying that despite steep discounts, it expects to meet or “modestly exceed” its annual profit and sales forecasts. The stock is still down 42% this year.

Hibbett Sports climbed 15.2% to $17.10 after the retailer raised its profit forecast and said it expects a smaller decline in an important sales measurement. Its stock has dropped 54% this year.

Twenty-First Century Fox continued to soar on growing speculation that some of the media company's assets will be sold. Comcast is in talks to buy Twenty-First Century Fox's movie studio, some of its cable channels and its international business. The Wall Street Journal and CNBC first reported Comcast's interest. The Journal reported that Verizon and Sony also are interested in some of Fox's assets.

Reports last week said Disney recently discussed a deal with Fox for the same businesses that now interest Comcast. Fox rose 6.2% to $31.15 on Friday; it’s up 25% in the last two weeks. Comcast fell 2.5% on Friday to $36.16. Verizon ticked up 1.5% to $45.42.

Electronic Arts stock retreated 2.5% to $108.92 after the video game company announced a last-minute change to “Star Wars Battlefront II” right before its Friday launch. EA turned off in-game purchases after fans complained about the cost of a feature that enabled players to skip ahead in the game to parts that include famous characters such as Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. Earlier this week, the company reduced the payments, but that didn't quiet the uproar. Its shares are down 9% this month.

Other technology companies also struggled. Microsoft slipped 1% to $82.40, and Intel fell 2.2% to $44.63.

Gold and oil prices jumped as the dollar weakened to its lowest level in almost a month. Benchmark U.S. crude rose $1.41, or 2.6%, to $56.55 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, rose $1.36, or 2.2%, to $62.72 a barrel in London.

Gold rose $18.30, or 1.4%, to $1,296.50 an ounce. Silver climbed 30 cents, or 1.8%, to $17.37 an ounce. Copper rose 2 cents to $3.07 a pound.

The dollar fell to 112.13 yen from 112.98 yen. The euro rose to $1.1796 from $1.1765.

Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.34% from 2.38%.

Wholesale gasoline rose 3 cents to $1.74 a gallon. Heating oil rose 4 cents to $1.95 a gallon. Natural gas rose 4 cents to $3.10 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In overseas markets, France's CAC 40 shed 0.3%, and Germany's DAX slid 0.4%. The British FTSE 100 slipped 0.1%. Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 rose 0.2%. South Korea's Kospi ended was little changed. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index gained 0.6%.


UPDATES:

2:20 p.m.: This article was updated with closing prices, context and analyst comment.

1:20 p.m.: This article was updated with the close of markets.

This article was originally published at 6:55 a.m.

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