NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stocks traded flat on Wednesday after retail sales fell for a second straight month in May and as uncertainties persisted in Europe ahead of this weekend's election in Greece.
Retail sales, excluding autos, were at their worst level in two years, the latest economic data to point to sluggish U.S. growth. The S&P Retail Index <.rlx> lost 0.3 percent.
Markets have been volatile this week, with the S&P 500 moving more than 1 percent in each of the past two trading days, largely dictated by the events in the euro zone.
Greece elections are scheduled for June 17, and the outcome could mean the country embarks on a potentially destabilizing exit from the euro zone. European shares <.fteu3> were down 0.24 percent.
Investors have pushed Spain's 10-year borrowing costs to their highest level since the launch of the euro, helping generate uncertainty over the plan to bail out the country's struggling banks.
"We don't know what the result of the bailout will be, nor the outcome of the elections, and that uncertainty is really preventing us from rallying or from selling off," said Randy Frederick, director of trading and derivatives for Charles Schwab in Austin, Texas. "It has become very difficult to know how the market will react to anything."
A drop in Spain's bond yields spurred a late rally in U.S. equities on Tuesday.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.dji> was up 0.46 points, or 0.00 percent, at 12,574.26. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.spx> was up 0.97 points, or 0.07 percent, at 1,325.15. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.ixic> was up 5.07 points, or 0.18 percent, at 2,848.14.
Johnson & Johnson
U.S. retail sales fell 0.2 percent in May, as expected, while producer prices were down 1 percent, wider than the expected decline of 0.6 percent. Recent U.S. economic data, most notably the May payroll report, has pointed to sluggish domestic growth.
U.S. business inventories rose 0.4 percent in April, slightly over the 0.3 percent expectation.
Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase & Co
An influential government adviser in China was quoted as saying the country's economic growth could fall below 7 percent in the second quarter if weak activity persists in June. Investors are looking to China's relatively robust expansion to pick up the slack from Europe, especially demand for commodities.
(Editing by Padraic Cassidy)