1 Market-Moving Event Investors Need to Watch

Despite suffering mixed results yesterday, 2012 remains a positive year for investors. Whether the second week of the new year keeps the hot streak alive will probably depend on one large economic indicator released today.

But before we jump into this morning's events, let's see how the three largest indices fared yesterday.

Index

Gain / Loss

Gain / Loss %

Ending Value

Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI  ) (13.02) (0.10%) 12,449.45
Nasdaq (INDEX: ^IXIC  ) 8.26 0.31% 2,710.76
S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC  ) 0.40 0.03% 1,292.48

It was a relatively flat day on the market with no huge swings in any of the indices. The euro, gold, and oil edged up slightly, and 10-year Treasuries suffered a minor decline. But today will probably be a lot more turbulent as four pieces of macro data roll out relating to initial claims, retail sales, business inventories, and the Treasury budget.

As important as initial claims are, given the frustratingly persistent high unemployment rate, the one report investors need to focus on is retail sales at 8:30 a.m. This is not just any retail sales month, but critical December retail sales. We will find out exactly how healthy the American consumer felt during a make-or-break time for the industry.

Poor numbers will erase any sense that a tangible recovery is almost upon us and send the market plunging, but if they are better than expected we could see a serious gain in positive momentum.

Sears Holdings (Nasdaq: SHLD  ) gave us a preview that the holidays were not kind to the big-box retailer as it announced almost immediately after Christmas that it will shutter between 100 and 120 Sears and Kmart stores. Most analysts thought that was a company-specific problem, as Sears struggled to compete against more efficient rivals like Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT  ) that cut into its lay-away business. However, the information we get will go a long way toward determining whether that was the case and will certainly set the mood before retailers report earnings in the coming weeks.

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David Williamson holds no position in any company mentioned. Check out his holdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Wal-Mart Stores. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of and creating a diagonal call position in Wal-Mart Stores. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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