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Stocks Get Beaten Down by Wal-Mart, Weak Retail Sales


NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Stocks tried to make a go of posting gains on Wednesday, but the forces were working against them.

First, weaker retail sales out in the morning put consumer discretionary stocks in the hot seat. Then, the world's largest retailer Wal-Mart (WMT - Get Report) reported worrying forecasts. The final nail in the coffin, the Federal Reserve's "Beige Book," showed a number of districts struggling from a slowdown in manufacturing associated with the stronger U.S. dollar.

Benchmark indexes slumped in the afternoon session after briefly popping into the green twice earlier in the day. The S&P 500 was down 0.47%, the Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 0.92%, and the Nasdaq fell 0.29%.

Retail sales rose just 0.1% in September, up slightly from a flat reading in August. The reading was as economists expected, though still looked weak as consumers held onto their cash during summer's end. Auto sales remained strong, up 1.7%.

Core sales, which strip out autos, gas and food, fell 0.1% after a downwardly revised 0.2% decline in August. Core sales most closely resemble the consumer spending measure used to calculate GDP. On the upside, weakness in core sales makes a Fed move in the near-term even more unlikely.

"The main takeaway from this report is to both reinforce the view that a rate hike in October is a...