U.S. stocks inched lower on Monday with retail shares down after Black Friday and data suggesting weak holiday sales, while data showing expansion in business activity in the Midwest helped to limit losses.
Investors said the market's sell-off on Friday in response to concerns about a debt default in Dubai had been overdone, and that tremors would be minor in U.S. equities markets.
The S&P Retail index <.RLX> fell 1.3 percent after the National Retail Federation said total Black Friday holiday spending was down from last year, suggesting that consumers were still reluctant to spend.
Retail sales data did not produce a surprise ... it looks like investors are sitting back and regrouping, said Fred Dickson, market strategist and director of retail research at D.A. Davidson & Co in Lake Oswego, Oregon.
Spillover from Dubai seems to be minimized, he added.
The Institute for Supply Management-Chicago business barometer showed that business activity in the U.S. Midwest expanded more than expected in November, reaching its highest level in over a year as new orders jumped.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> was down 8.91 points, or 0.09 percent, at 10,301.01. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> was down 1.15 points, or 0.11 percent, at 1,090.34. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> was down 5.93 points, or 0.28 percent, at 2,132.51.
On the plus side, online retailers' shares rose after analytics firm comScore said that online spending was the highest it had ever been on Black Friday, with Cyber Monday spending expected to be even stronger.
By midday on Monday, major U.S. department stores' stocks were taking a beating, with Macy's <.M.N> down 6 percent at $15.96 and Saks Inc
On the Dubai front, following last week's request from Dubai for a standstill agreement on billions of dollars in debt, its government said on Monday it will not take responsibility for the debts of the Dubai World conglomerate. The Dubai government's statement squashed creditors' hopes that the emirate would guarantee its liabilities.
(Additional reporting by Ryan Vlastelica; Editing by Jan Paschal)