Early gains for U.S. equities faded throughout the day and stocks finished lower, despite a jump in November retail sales and positive service sector data, and reports that a tentative tax bill deal has been reached. Consumer discretionary stocks got a boost from the sales report, but the gains were muted by a fall in the health care sector. Pressure on financials after Treasury yields pared gains contributed to the downdraft, as investors asses yesterday’s Fed rate hike and a host of European monetary policy decisions. Crude oil and the U.S. dollar were higher, while gold was lower. Attention toward the equity front focused on Dow member Walt Disney’s agreement to acquire parts of Twenty-First Century Fox for $52 billion.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) declined 77 points (0.3%) to 24,509, the S&P 500 Index lost 11 points (0.4%) to 2,652, and the Nasdaq Composite decreased 19 points (0.3%) to 6,857. In moderate volume, 810 million shares were traded on the NYSE and 1.9 billion shares changed hands on the Nasdaq. WTI crude oil increased $0.44 to $57.074 per barrel and wholesale gasoline gained $0.02 to $1.67 per gallon. Elsewhere, the Bloomberg gold spot price moved $2.42 lower to $1,253.08 per ounce, and the Dollar Index—a comparison of the U.S. dollar to six major world currencies—was 0.1% higher at 93.52.

As was widely speculated, Dow member Walt Disney Co. (DIS $111) announced an agreement to acquire parts of Twenty-First Century Fox Inc. (FOXA $35), including the Twentieth Century Fox Film and Television studios, along with cable and international TV businesses, for about $52.4 billion in stock. Under the terms of the deal, Twenty-First Century Fox stockholders will receive 0.2745 Disney shares for each share they hold. Immediately prior to the acquisition, Twenty-First Century Fox will separate the Fox Broadcasting network and stations into a newly listed company that will be spun off to its shareholders. Walt Disney also announced that it has extended Robert Iger’s contract and he will remain Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the company through 2021. DIS and FOXA both gained solid ground.

Advance retail sales for November rose 0.8% month-over-month (m/m), compared to the Bloomberg forecast of a 0.3% gain and compared to October’s upwardly revised 0.5% increase. Last month’s sales ex-autos were up by 1.0% m/m, versus expectations of a 0.6% gain, and following the favorably revised 0.4% increase seen in the previous month. Sales ex-autos and gas gained 0.8% m/m, above estimates of a 0.4% rise, and versus October’s upwardly revised 0.4% gain. The retail sales control group, a figure used to help calculate GDP, increased 0.8%, north of projections of a 0.4% rise, and versus the prior month’s favorably revised 0.4% gain.

The report suggests the holiday season got off to a strong start and the all-important U.S. consumer continues to be underpinned by the solid labor market and signs of wage growth. Growth was broad-based across the 13 categories, led by a 2.5% jump in sales at nonstore retailers—which includes online shopping—but auto sales were the lone group that declined. Weekly initial jobless claims dropped by 11,000 to 225,000 last week, versus forecasts to remain at the prior week’s unrevised 236,000 level. The four-week moving average came in at 234,750, while continuing claims fell by 27,000 to 1,886,000, south of estimates of 1,900,000.

Treasuries were mixed, as the yield on the 2-year note rose 4 basis points (bps) to 1.81%, the yield on the 10-year note was flat at 2.35%, while the 30-year bond rate dipped 2 bps to 2.71%.

Bond yields were mixed but the U.S. dollar got back on the winning path after yesterday’s drop, with the markets grappling with today’s data and unchanged monetary policy decisions by the European Central Bank and Bank of England, which followed yesterday’s highly-expected Fed rate hike.

Tax reform also remained a source of market attention, bolstered by reports that lawmakers have reached a tentative deal on a final bill.

Schwab Center for Financial Research – Market Analysis Group

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