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The major indexes all closed higher for the day, despite a weakening Chinese GDP growth rate and a mediocre retail sales report. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) gained 19 points, or 0.13%, during the session and managed to set another all-time record closing high at 15,484. The S&P 500 rose 0.14%, and the Nasdaq increased by 0.21%, even as China's GDP growth fell to 7.5% during the second quarter of 2013, after hitting 7.7% during the first quarter.
The Commerce Department's retail sales report showed a 0.4% increase for June, but since economists were expecting a much better result, investors were disappointed by the data. That report also surely affected shares of Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT ) , which moved lower by 0.77%. Even more discouraging for Wal-Mart is that while computer and electronics sales were lower in June, so-called core retail sales rose by a measly 0.15%, the weakest showing since January. To make matters worse, many analysts believe this may only be the calm before the storm, because as gas prices inch higher, Americans will have less in their wallet to spend on core items at stores like Wal-Mart.
Shares of General Electric (NYSE: GE ) declined by 0.55% today, possibly fueled by predictions of what its second-quarter earnings release, scheduled for July 19, might look like. As my colleague Seth Jason recently noted, earnings per share are expected to come in 5.3% lower than they were during the second quarter of last year, while revenue is estimated to be off by 2.5%. Investors never want to see lower year-over-year revenue or earnings, especially not while the economy is still recovering from our recent recession.
Finally, shares of UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH ) declined today, losing 0.56%. Like General Electric, UnitedHealth is expected to post lower earnings results this year than it did during the second quarter of last year. While economists are estimating that revenues will increase by 11.9%, they also predicted that EPS will fall 1.6%. UnitedHealth is scheduled to report its Q2 results on July 18, and with questions lingering about how the health-care exchanges will work under Obamacare and what effects the legislation will have on the overall health-care industry, investors need a beat -- or at the very least a match of estimates -- or else the stock could really tank at the end of the week.