A big fall in retail sales together with soft producer price data pushed back the outlook for economic improvement. The retail sales drop more than wiped out the gains in February and suggest that job losses, which are continuing without letup based on weekly jobless claims, may very well be hurting this month's retail sales as well. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke eased some of the sting, saying that the economy is indeed on the mend.
Money moved out of stocks and the dollar and into the safety of Treasuries. The S&P 500 fell 2% to end at 841.65 while the dollar fell about 1 cent to $1.3276 against the euro. Treasury yields fell nearly 10 basis points for long rates and about 2 basis points for short rates, including a 1.6 point drop for the 3-month bill which, at a very tight yield of 0.15 percent, reflects still unrelenting demand for safety.
The weak data pushed down many commodities including oil, which dipped about 50 cents to just under $49.50. But gold was steady ending little changed just under $890.