Retailers Fall as Dow Holds 16,000

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over daily movements, we do like to keep an eye on market changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

The Federal Reserve's taper talk got more mixed this morning when Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart said the central bank is willing to support the economy until both the economy and financial markets are ready a pullback in stimulus. He acknowledged that taper talk will certainly occur at future Fed meetings, regardless of whether members feel it is time to slow bond buying. Those comments give investors a little more insight to the newly released minutes from last month's Fed meeting, and when the central bank members are thinking the taper could begin.  

With this bullish news for stocks, as of 1:10 p.m. EST the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) is higher by 19 points, or 0.12%, to 16,031. The S&P 500 is also higher, by 0.3%, while the Nasdaq is leading all three of the major indexes by rising 0.45% today.

While the major indexes are performing well today, major retailers are not. Shares of Gap (NYSE: GPS  ) are down 1.58%, Abercrombie & Fitch (NYSE: ANF  ) has lost 4%, and Ross Stores stock (NASDAQ: ROST  ) is down 6%. So what's happening?

Gap and Ross Stores both reported quarterly earnings yesterday after the closing bell. Gap reported revenue of $3.98 billion, which met analysts' expectations, and earnings per share of $0.72, which beat by a penny and climbed from $0.63 per share this quarter last year. But the company gave fourth-quarter guidance of $2.57-$2.65, which came in lower than the $2.74 Wall Street had anticipated.  

The story is a little worse at Ross. Revenue came in at $2.4 billion, which was slightly lower than the $2.43 billion expected, while earnings per share came in at $0.72, below the $0.80 analysts had wanted to see. Furthermore, the company also warned that the coming quarter will be a tough one as competition has intensified discounting and promotions. Management sees earnings per share around $0.97-$1.01 for the fourth quarter, while the full year will hit $3.83-$3.87. Wall Street had expected $1.08 for the quarter and $3.94 for the full year.  

These results all indicate that the last quarter was nothing to be too proud of, and that the coming quarter won't be, either. Shares of teen retailer Abercrombie & Fitch are likely down today simple because the industry as a whole is on a down note. The question is, though, can any company stand out when they are all cutting prices and nearly giving items away? How will anyone win in this environment, and more importantly is this really an industry you want to have your money invested in?

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