NEW YORK — The final month of a stellar year for stocks began with a thud.
All three major indexes closed lower Monday, the first day of trading in December. Investors sold shares on signs that American shoppers — that seemingly inexhaustible fuel of global economic growth — may hold tight to their cash this holiday season.
Shoppers turned out in record numbers over the four-day Thanksgiving weekend, but plunked down less cash than they did last year. It was the first decline in Thanksgiving weekend spending since a retail trade group began tracking it in 2006.
Investors reacted by selling all types of retailer stocks, from department stores to specialty chains. J.C. Penney, Macy’s and Target fell about 2 percent each. Urban Outfitters dropped nearly 4 percent.
“This holiday season is not going to be a gangbuster,” said Lindsey Piegza, chief economist of Sterne Agee. “Retailers are bracing for declining activity from now to the beginning of the year.”
One big exception to the retailer doldrums was Ebay, which rose 1.6 percent thanks to signs of strong sales from its online auctions.
The Dow Jones industrial average has surged 22 percent this year and, if history holds, will add to that gain this month. The Dow has risen in December in three out of every four years going back to 1950, according to the Stock Trader’s Almanac. The average gain: 1.7 percent.
On Monday, the Dow fell 77.64 points, or 0.5 percent, to 16,008.77. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index dropped 4.91 points, or 0.3 percent, to 1,800.90. The Nasdaq composite fell 14.63 points, or 0.4 percent, to 4,045.26.