American shoppers slowed their spending in June, resulting in tepid sales for many retailers. Target's stock fell 1 percent after reporting that its sales rose less than analysts were expecting, while discount store operator Fred's Inc. fell 4.5 percent.
The Dow Jones industrial average closed down 47 points at 12,897 on Thursday. The Standard & Poor's 500 fell six points to 1,368. The Nasdaq composite was a fraction higher at 2,976.
Falling stocks narrowly outpaced rising ones on the New York Stock Exchange. Volume was thinner than average at 2.9 billion shares.