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Signs of weak holiday spending send retail stocks lower
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NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks were lower in quiet trading Monday as traders returned from the Thanksgiving holiday. Retail stocks led the declines as early signals about the strength of the holiday shopping season failed to impress. Investors are focusing on central banks in Europe and the U.S., which are going in different directions on interest rate policy.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average lost 24 points, or 0.1 percent, to 17,774 as of 1:35 p.m. Eastern. The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost three points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,087 and the Nasdaq composite edged down 20 points, or 0.4 percent, to 5,107.

BARGAINS! BASEMENT PRICES! Retail stocks fell after initial data from Black Friday and the first holiday shopping weekend showed shoppers were not going to stores as much as last year. Preliminary ShopperTrak data showed in-store sales on Thanksgiving and Black Friday were $12.1 billion, down from $12.3 billion in 2014. Investment bank analysts observed the department stores having to do deep discounting to attract shoppers to their stores. Reports from research firms like ChannelAdvisor showed strong growth in sales online.

"We believe Black Friday has gone from a period of management excitement to one of anguish," Nomura retail analysts Simeon Siegel, Gene Vladimirov and Julie Kim wrote in a note to investors.

Consumer discretionary stocks were down 1 percent, compared to the 0.1 percent drop in the S&P 500. Department store stocks were down on average 1.5 percent.

"While it's too early to make the call about how 2015 holiday revenues (and margins) will unfold, our survey results for the Black Friday weekend don't add a lot of confidence for the broad retail landscape," Dave Weiner and Sindhu Chitturi, retail analysts for Deutsche Bank, wrote in a note to investors.

INTEREST RATES: The European Central Bank is widely expected to give the region's economy another dose of stimulus as it tries to keep a recovery going and get inflation closer to 2 percent. The stimulus is likely to include increasing the amount banks have to pay to park money at the ECB, giving them an incentive to lend it out instead.

IN CONTRAST: While the ECB moves toward increasing stimulus, the Federal Reserve is getting ready to start raising interest rates for the first time since June 2006. A series of U.S. economic reports this week, culminating with Friday's jobs survey for November, could cement investors' expectations for a rate hike at the Fed's next policy meeting in mid-December.

CURRENCY IMPACT: The policy divergence between the two central banks has weighed on the euro and sent the dollar higher. On Monday the euro fell to $1.0567, its lowest level since April. It traded at $1.0591 late Friday.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude rose 3 cents to $41.75 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, which is used to price international oils, was down 24 cents at $44.62 per barrel in London.

BONDS, CURRENCIES: U.S. government bond prices didn't move much. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note held steady at 2.22 percent. The dollar rose to 123.20 yen from 122.85 yen late Friday.