Stocks Slip Despite Upbeat Retail Sales

U.S. stocks declined in the early trading on Wednesday after the government reported retail sales jumped in February. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lately was down 21.66 points to 14,428.40. The S&P 500 index was off 2.40 points to 1,550.08. The Nasdaq Composite fell 7.46 points to 3,234.86.

Americans spent at the fastest pace in five months in February, boosting retail spending 1.1 percent compared with January. The report Wednesday from the Commerce Department showed that Americans kept spending last month despite higher Social Security taxes that took effect this year. The retail sales report is the government’s first look each month at consumer spending, which drives about 70 percent of economic activity.

Despite constant budget wrangling and finger-pointing by the nation’s policy-makers, the government’s short-term fiscal outlook isn’t all that bad. It’s actually getting better — at least for now.

The consumer banking website of JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) was unavailable to some users on Tuesday as the company tried to deal with a denial-of-service cyber attack that slowed access for some customers. Washington is borrowing about 25 cents for every dollar it spends, down from over 40 cents just a few years ago.

Oil prices rose slightly for a fifth straight session Wednesday despite a forecast for weaker global demand growth and expectations of rising U.S. crude stocks. By early afternoon in Europe, benchmark oil for April delivery was up 15 cents to $92.69 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

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