Stocks tumbled at the open today after Wal-Mart slashed its earnings estimates, driving fear in the retail sector. The Dow dropped 62, while the Nasdaq and S&P fell 0.5% and 0.7% respectively. There was more bad news on the job front, with unemployment claims climbing to their highest level since November 1992. Economists expect tomorrow’s nonfarm payroll report will show a contraction of at least 500,000 jobs.
Retailers also released ugly December sales numbers. Wal-Mart's same-store sales rose 1.7%, but after its earnings target cut, its shares fell 8%. Macy’s dropped more than 2% after reporting a 4% drop in same-store sales and a plan to close 11 locations that employ nearly 1,000 people. Sears bucked the trend, upping its estimates and earning an 8% jump in its stock price. Oil continued its fall, dropping to $41.74 a barrel.