Here’s what’s shaking:
The Dow Jones industrial average was down 47 points at 13,366 shortly after the opening bell Thursday. The Standard & Poor’s 500 was off three points at 1,459 and the Nasdaq composite lost six points to 3,106.
Some retailers struggled during the most crucial time of the year as shoppers held out for deep discounts. Target’s December sales, for example, were slightly below expectations. Analysts expected an increase of 0.8 percent.
Investors are also keeping an eye on Washington, where few are completely happy with the deal that averted the so-called fiscal cliff.
Congress must soon vote to raise the amount that the country can borrow in order to avoid defaulting on loans. President Barack Obama has said the issue isn’t up for debate.
By early afternoon in Europe, benchmark crude for February delivery was down 55 cents to $92.57 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Prices had jumped Wednesday after a deal in Washington averted the dreaded “fiscal cliff” of automatic tax increases and spending cuts. The contract rose $1.30 to finish at $93.12 a barrel on the Nymex.
More hurdles are ahead for the U.S. economy, including a new deadline for more spending cuts in two months.
Moreover, Moody’s Investors Services said the U.S. government’s “AAA” credit rating could be at risk if lawmakers fail to take additional steps to lower the deficit, which has topped $1 trillion annually in each of the past four years.
The International Monetary Fund also urged Washington to keep working on raising revenues and cutting spending to put “U.S. public finances back on a sustainable path without harming the still fragile recovery.”
Oil prices were dented by the rising dollar as investors steered away from riskier assets. The euro was down sharply to $1.3102 on Thursday from $1.3189 on Wednesday. A stronger dollar makes crude more expensive – and a less attractive investment – for traders using other currencies.
Brent crude, used to price various kinds of international oil, was down 37 cents to $112.10 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.
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Front page photo courtesy Getty Images.