Disappointing reads on jobs and consumer spending, the two most important things in the world.

First, the scoreboard:

Dow: 12,471.0, +21.6, +0.2%
S&P 500: 1,295.5, +3.0, +0.2%
NASDAQ: 2,724.7, +13.9, +0.5%

And now, the top stories:

  • Everyone breathed a sigh of relief after this morning’s Spanish and Italian bond auctions went without a hitch.  In other news, the ECB announced no change in its benchmark interest rate.  In a presser following the announcement, ECB president Mario Draghi reiterated his concerns about the eurozone’s debt problems.  Not exactly news.
  • We got a one-two punch of disappointing economic data this morning.  Weekly initial jobless claims jumped to 399k, from 372k last week.  Economists were expecting claims to increase to just 375k.
  • Retail sales climbed by just 0.1% in December, well short of the 0.4% increase expected by economists.  Excluding autos, retail sales actually declined 0.2% due to weaker-than-expected electronics sales.  Goldman Sachs pinpointed the weakness, noting that non-store retailers (i.e. online retailers) were particularly weak. In somewhat related news, high-end retailer Williams-Sonoma warned that its holiday sales lagged expectations, which caused the stock to tumble.  However, it should be noted that November retail sales were revised upward.
  • There was at least one encouraging anecdote today: Home Depot said it would boost its seasonal spring hiring 17% to 70k this year. The do-it-yourself retailer said it usually keeps around half of those hires full-time.   The 10 States That Are Still Getting Crushed By Foreclosures >
  • There was some notable volatility in commodity prices today.  Wheat and corn prices plunged after the USDA reported much larger-than-expected supplies of the grains.
  • Oil prices retreated during afternoon trading.  A source told Bloomberg that the European Union would delay its embargo of Iranian oil by six months.  The E.U. had been expected to impose this embargo on January 23.  Big energy names including Baker Hughes, Cabot Oil & Gas, and Helmerich & Payne were the biggest losers in the S&P 500.
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