Stock market retreats as investors keep one eye on coronavirus

Stocks were mixed in Friday afternoon trade, bouncing between small gains and losses, as investors parsed mixed data on the strength of the U.S. consumer. Investors were also monitoring the spread of COVID-19 in China, while corporate earnings season moved toward the home stretch.

What are major indexes doing?

The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, -0.09% was down 74 points, or 0.3%, at about 29,353, while the S&P 500 SPX, +0.18%  was roughly flat at 3,373. The Nasdaq Composite COMP, +0.20% added 4 points to trade near 9,715, less than a 0.1% gain.

All three benchmark indexes touched all-time highs earlier in the week. For the week, the Dow looked likely to add 0.9%, the S&P 500 on track to advance 1.4%, and the Nasdaq to gain 2% for the period.

What’s driving the market?

Some cracks in what has been a seemingly impregnable segment of the U.S. economy — the U.S. consumer — in a record-setting 11th year of economic expansion has caused investors to second-guess a mostly bullish uptrend for stocks this week. Some seeds of doubt were sown on Friday after a report on January retail sales showed sluggish activity, underscored by a 3.1% drop in sales at clothing stores.

Retail sales rose 0.3% in January, the government said, matching the MarketWatch consensus forecast.

“The market’s resilience in the past couple of years has been predicated on the belief that the consumer will continue to do well—although retail data has been mixed in that regard,” said John Carey, director of equity income for the U.S. at Amundi Pioneer, in an interview with MarketWatch.

The weaker-than-expected report on retail sales comes even as a separate measure of consumer sentiment surged above expectations to touch a near 15-year high in a preliminary February reading.

“It’s something that could undermine

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