NEW YORK (AP) -- Shares of department stores including Sears Holdings, J.C. Penney Co., Kohl's Inc. and others all fell in trading Wednesday as the broader market sank on jitters about the global economy a day ahead of when many retailers report May sales figures.
Macy's Inc. stock fell despite its report of better-than-expected May sales. The department store operator said revenue at stores open at least a year rose 4.2 percent during the four weeks ended May 26. That was better than the 4 percent rise analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected.
But the company's shares fell 55 cents to $38.44 in midday trading. Most other retailers who post monthly results will report them Thursday.
Brian Sozzi, chief equities analyst at NBG Productions, an independent research firm, said the market could be reacting to indications that May, the first month of the second quarter, has slowed relative to results in the first quarter.
Last week, Tiffany sounded a warning bell about luxury sales that have been buoyant for several years. The luxury jeweler said its sales aren't rising as fast as last year in the U.S. or abroad and cut its forecasts for the year.
"Retailers are coming up against strong comparisons with last year and not beating them," Sozzi said.
Consumers and investors alike are grappling with fears that after a strong start to the year, the economic recovery is again slowing — a repeat of what happened in 2011. On Tuesday, The Conference Board, a private research group, reported Tuesday that its Consumer Confidence Index fell to 64.9, down from a revised 68.7 in April. Analysts had expected the index to climb to 70.
The Dow Jones industrial average plunged 147 points to 12,433 on Wednesday. The Dow has had a miserable May. It's down 5.9 percent for the month, putting it on track this week to end its first losing month since September.
Sears Holdings Co. was one of the biggest decliners in the sector. Shares fell $4.76, or 8.3 percent, to $52.74. The stock had been up 81 percent for the year.
J.C. Penney shares fell 91 cents, or 3.3 percent, to $27.09. The stock had been down 20 percent since the start of the year.
Kohl's Inc. shares fell $1.54, or 3 percent, to $49.11, erasing its 3 percent gain so far this year. Dillard's shares fell $1.31 to $68.99.
Lower-price department stores also fell, with Stein Mart shares down 8 cents to $6.97 and Bon-Ton shares down 7 cents to $4.69.