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Will Retail Sales Stir Up This Listless Stock Market?

U.S. retail sales and a Greek bill auction are among the few events Tuesday that could stir up a listless stock market.

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“There’s two pieces of news. The Greek debt auction. That needs to go well,” said Steve Massocca of Wedbush Securities. Greece is auctioning just over 3 billion euros in short term bills. “We need a good retail sales number to keep the rally going,” he said.

The S&P 500, which is up 9 percent since early June, fell 1 point to close at 1404 Monday. The Dow fell 38 to 13,169, while the Nasdaq rose 1 to 3022, on some of the lightest volume of the year. “We’re due for somewhat of a pause,” Massocca said. The 1400 level is viewed as a key psychological level for the market.

Economists expect a 0.3-percent gain in July’s retail sales, when the data are reported at 8:30 a.m. ET. The PPI inflation report is due at 8:30 a.m., and the NFIB small business survey is expected at 7:30 a.m. Ahead of the U.S. reports, there is also important European GDP data for Germany, France and the EU.

Ward McCarthy, chief financial economist at Jefferies, said he is looking for an above-consensus 0.5 percent retail sales number. “I thought there might be some price effects in the data. There’s no signs consumers are percolating but after three months of declines in retail sales, you’d expect to see some signs of life even though car sales were disappointing,” he said. McCarthy said he expects to see some price increases — in food, for instance — that could help move retail sales above consensus.

“We’re in a serious lull right now,” McCarthy said. “A lot of it is there just aren’t that many people sitting in front of screens. Another part of it is people are waiting to see how the Draghi drama is going to play out and people are waiting to see what comes out of Jackson Hole.” European Central BankPresident Mario Draghi, after the ECB’s last meeting, promised a plan of action to help fix the debt crisis, and markets are awaiting further details. Traders have also been hanging on the upcoming Fed symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyo., in anticipation that Federal Reserve officials will discuss more easing at that meeting, as a prelude to announcing a new round of quantitative easing in September.

There are also a few earnings reportsTuesday, from Home Depot, Estee Lauder, Michael Kors, Flower Foods, TJX and Saks before the opening bell. JDS Uniphase and Bob Evans Farms report after the close.

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In Monday’s earnings news, shares of Grouponfell 18 percent after the close to a new low on disappointing billings. Facebook and Zynga were also lower after-hours.

While traders had plenty to say about the Republican presidential ticket Monday, there was no obvious market reaction to Mitt Romney’s choice of Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate. Ryan, who chairs the House budget committee, is a fiscal conservative and well-liked by Wall Street. The announcement is expected to shift the political debate more heavily to the economy and budget issues. (Read more: In His Own Words: Paul Ryan on CNBC.)

“I thought there’d be a little more reaction than this,” said McCarthy. “I’m not sure people understand what it means.” Some traders said there were concerns that Ryan could be a negative among some voters, particularly the elderly, and that could help President Obama. (Read more: Wall Street's Big Concern: Can Ryan Help Romney Win?)

Follow Patti Domm on Twitter: @pattidommQuestions? Comments? Email us at marketinsider@cnbc.com

  • Patti Domm

    Patti Domm is CNBC Executive Editor, News, responsible for news coverage of the markets and economy.

  • A CNBC reporter since 1990, Bob Pisani covers Wall Street from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

  • CNBC's Senior Personal Finance Correspondent

  • JeeYeon Park is a writer for CNBC.com. Follow her on Twitter: @JeeYeonParkCNBC

  • Rick Santelli joined CNBC Business News as an on-air editor in 1999, reporting live from the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade.

  • Senior Producer at CNBC's Breaking News Desk.