U.S. stocks closed mostly lower on Thursday, with the S&P 500 slipping from its record, as Best Buy Co. fell sharply and Wall Street measured results from corporations including Goldman Sachs Group and Citigroup.
"The market is searching for what the trend line is for the fourth-quarter earnings releases; the earnings we've seen so far I'd call mixed," said Jim Russell, senior equity strategist for US Bank Wealth Management. "There's a shift from the rising tide lifting all boats in 2013 related to the Fed policy of QE to much more disparity between winners and losers, which we're starting to see in the retail area and the financial area. Some are able to execute in this slow-growth environment, others maybe not," Russell added.
Goldman Sachs reported a 21 percent drop in quarterly profit; Citigroup posted a lower-than-expected quarterly profit; CSX posted a 5 percent drop in quarterly profit. Shares of all three fell. Best Buy declined 28 percent after the consumer-electronics chain reported a decline in holiday sales.
The retail sales report earlier in the week "showed the economy was moving forward, driven by two-thirds of the economy, which is the consumer," said Andrew Wilkinson, chief market analyst at Interactive Brokers. But within that report, department stores proved to be one of the few areas with a year-over-year decline, which Wilkinson said "comes back to bite us today with the news from Best Buy."
But the trend "is not symptomatic of the health of the consumer, but that people are continuing to migrate to online purchases," said Wilkinson.
Thursday's fall is in large part a consolidation of the gains that came the prior two days, both Russell and Wilkinson said.