A surprisingly weak retail sales report drove stocks lower on Tuesday, giving the Dow Jones industrial average its second straight day of losses.
The Commerce Department said Tuesday that retail sales rose just 0.3 percent in January, the smallest increase since June and half of what economists had predicted.
Kim Caughey Forrest, equity research analyst at Fort Pitt Capital Group, said higher prices for gasoline and raw materials are beginning to be passed along to consumers. That's hurting retail sales and spending, she said.
"Without wage gains," she said, "people are going to buy less."
Energy companies led the way down. Exxon Mobil Corp. lost 2.3 percent, the largest drop among the 30 large companies that make up the Dow. Exxon Mobil said it added 3.5 billion barrels of oil and gas last year to the company's massive reserves, more than twice what Exxon produced in 2010.
The Dow fell 41.55, or 0.3 percent, to close at 12,226.64. That's only the third day this month the Dow has closed lower.
One of NYSE's biggest competitors, Nasdaq OMX Group Inc., fell 4.6 percent.
Roughly three stocks fell for every one that rose on the New York Stock Exchange. Trading volume was 929 million shares.