Market Wrap: Retail Stocks Lift The Dollar

The U.S. market indexes closed relatively unchanged after a bumpy day of trading. Bob Pisani was CNBC’s “Eye on the Floor,” and he wondered if this recent stall in the markets was a sign of “buyer exhaustion.” The Dow Jones Industrial Average did rally in early trading – enough to take it to a new intraday high. But it spent most of the day in the red before finishing up two points.

Airline stocks were the big gainers today – all on M&A talk: Midwest Air Group rejected a takeover bid from AirTran Holdings, and Continental and UAL , parent of United Airlines,are discussing a possible merger that would create the largest airline in the U.S.

Retail stocks, including Wal-Mart and Federated Department Stores , got their footing on news of strong retail sales for November – sales were up 1% for the month, the biggest jump since July.

Those numbers also helped out the U.S. dollar, which has been showing weakness against foreign currencies. The dollar rallied to a three-week high against the yen and also made gains against the euro and pound.

And oil inventories declined more than expected. This led a sell-off in the market as investors expressed concern that higher prices could prompt inflation and stall consumer spending. Crude oil finished the day up 43 cents to 61.45 per barrel.