Wall Street slipped on Thursday after a major aftershock in Japan reignited fears about nuclear crisis, but greater faith in the U.S. economy's steady path held losses in check.

Retail stocks rose, limiting broader market losses, after better-than-expected chain-store sales in March, a positive sign for sustained economic recovery.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> dropped 17.71 points, or 0.14 percent, to 12,409.04. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> lost 2.09 points, or 0.16 percent, to 1,333.45. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> shed 3.68 points, or 0.13 percent, to 2,796.14.

(Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by Leslie Adler)