Stocks Slip After Mixed Data; Nordstrom Falls

U.S. stocks were lower Friday after several reports on the economy did little to change the overall picture for investors.

The Dow Jones Industrials Averageopened lower after three previous sessions of losses. Walt Disney and DuPont led decliners while Hewlett-Packard and Bank of America led advancers.

TheS&P 500and the Nasdaqdipped. The CBOE Volatility Index, widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, was rose above 26.

Consumer discretionary, health care and technology were the worst performing sectors in the S&P.

In economic news, Kansas City Federal Reserve President Thomas Hoenig said Friday that the Federal Reserve should set a date for raising the Fed’s target interest rate to 1 percent.

Speaking in Lincoln, Nebraska, Hoenig said the Fed needs to get the economy off the zero rate, "moving it up slowly and deliberately." The Fed official dissented with the majority of the board every meeting this year.

Among economic reports, the University of Michigan said consumer sentiment rose in August.

Consumer sentiment rose in August slightly more than expected to 69.6 from 67.8 in July, the University of Michigan reported in its monthly consumer sentiment index. The reading was above the median forecast of 69.3 by economists surveyed by Reuters.

U.S. retail sales rose in July but the gains were mostly in auto and gasoline station sales, providing little reason to think the retail picture had changed much. The Commerce Department reported sales rose 0.4 percent last month after a revised 0.3 percent drop in June, and not as strong as the 0.5 percent gain expected by economists surveyed by Reuters.

The Consumer Price Index rose 0.3 percent, in line with forecasts. Core CPI, excluding the volatile food and energy sectors, was up 0.1 percent, also as expected.

Friday's market action is unlikely to lead to a reverse in the biggest fall in the market since the week ending July 2, six weeks ago.

Retailers across-the-board were weak after a string of earnings reports gave investors pause.

J.C. Penney , reported better-than-expected earnings, but shares fell because the retailer downgraded its forecast.

Nordstrom was down sharply on worries about the department store's inventory levels.The company reported strong earnings Thursday afternoon.

Kohl's shares fell a day after the retailer reported a weaker-than-expected outlook for the second half of the year, and S&P Equity cut the company's price target to $58 from $62.

In acquisition news, IBM said it will pay about $480 million in cash to buy marketing software firm Unicafor about $21 per share, a premium of around 120 percent from Thursday's close of $9.55. Unica shares soared, rising more than 115 percent. The move will allow IBM to do more with software and services.

Also, shares of Dynergy soared more than 50 percent after news the Blackstone Groupwill buy the power producerfor $543 million in cash and sell four of its power plants to NRG Energy. Blackstone will pay Dynegy shareholders $4.50 in cash per share, a 62 percent premium over Thursday's closing price. Blackstone will also take on more than $4 billion in Dynegy debt.

BP will likely know today if the leaking Gulf well has been permanently sealed, as test results are analyzed. Retired Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, the administration's point man for the BP spill, is scheduled to give a news conference at 1:45 pm.

Videogame makers Electronic Arts and Activision Blizzard were relatively flat after industry watcher NPD reported game sales falling 1 percent in July, which actually represents an improvement over prior trends.

Also in the technology sector, both Oracle and Google were lower following Oracle's patent infringement complaint over Google's Android software for mobile phones.

Dell, meanwhile, was accused of withholding documents, including e-mails, in a lawsuit over faulty computers it sold to businesses, according to a federal court filing on Thursday.

And computer software and services provider Autodesk and chipmaker Nvidia were sharply higher a day after reporting strong earnings.

On tap next week:

MONDAY: Credit card default rates, Empire State manufacturing survey, Treasury international capital data, NAHB housing market index; earnings before the bell from Lowe's.
TUESDAY: Producer Price Index, Housing starts, industrial production; earnings before the bell from Home Depot, Wal-Mart, Abercrombie & Fitch, TJX.
WEDNESDAY: MBA mortgage applications, oil inventories; earnings before the bell from Deere, Target, after the bell from Limited.
THURSDAY: Jobless claims, leading indicators, Philadelphia Fed survey; earnings after the bell from HP, Dell, Gap, Intuit

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