All eyes on Wall Street

The bears were out in force on Wall Street Thursday, as markets appeared to be spooked by a French bank’s effort to freeze three funds that invested in the United States subprime mortgage market. Particularly hard hit on the financial markets yesterday were home channel stocks.

Of 16 major home channel and home-related companies tracked by Home Channel News (see below), only Tractor Supply and Andersons showed gains on Thursday. The decliners were led by two-step distributor Huttig Building Products, down 16.09 percent on the day, and home improvement product manufacturer Masco, down 7.17 percent. (Read more here.)

Among retailers, Home Depot was down 5.32 percent. The company Thursday said, “in view of current financial market conditions” it may need to renegotiate the terms of its previously announced sale of its HD Supply division to three private equity groups. (Read more here.) Number-two home center retailer Lowe’s was down 3.65 percent, on the same day it announced it was losing Doug Robinson, who was in charge of its Canadian operations. (Read more here.)

As the stock markets were leaking, United States retailers reported moderate growth for the month of July, when same-store sales grew 2.6 percent, according to the tally from the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC). The housing market figured heavily in the analysis from Michael Niemira, ICSC’s chief economist.

“As we have noted earlier this year, a consumer ‘soft patch’ began in February 2007, and the latest data suggested it continued through July,” he said. “The housing market drag continues to dampen consumer demand and with it the overall economy.”

While Wal-Mart’s same-store sales for July increased 1.9 percent, its shares fell more than 4 percent, its biggest single-day drop in four years.

 Following Thursday’s 2.96 percent decline of the S&P 500 Index and a 2.83 percent decline in the Dow Jones industrial average, the markets stopped the bleeding on Friday. The Dow closed down a mere 0.23 percent, and the S&P 500 actually increased slightly.

Friday Gainers:

Home Depot: 35.92, up 0.36%

Sears Holdings: 133.10, up 2.46%

Lowe's: 27.76, up 1.20%

BlueLinx: 8.10, up 0.12%

Weyerhaeuser: 66.42, up 0.23%

BMHC:14.23, up 9.04%

Builders FirstSource: 14.20, up 5.73%

Stanley Works: 56.55, up 0.69%

Black & Decker: 89.68, up 0.09%

Sherwin-Williams: 69.14, up 4.68%

Friday Decliners:

Huttig: 5.17, down 3.72%

Masco: 25.78, down 0.96 %

Wolseley: 20.60, down 2.60%

Wal-Mart: 46.07, down 0.82%

Andersons: 49.04, down 3.33%

Tractor Supply: 48.98, down 3.96%

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