WASHINGTON, Dec. 15 (UPI) -- From Main Street to Wall Street, the economic and financial reaction to the dramatic capture of Saddam Hussein over the weekend was muted, with the Dow and Nasdaq closing in negative territory Monday, while retailers crossed their fingers for increased consumer confidence.
"Don't shoot, I am Saddam Hussein, the President of the Republic of Iraq," the Iraqi dictator is reported to have said at his capture on Saturday, bringing to an end eight months of cat-and-mouse searching which had lent an air of unfinished business to the conflict. By Sunday morning the United States along with the rest of the world was given a view of Saddam as a now disheveled and disoriented figure with a heavy grey beard.
While the capture of the notorious Iraqi dictator does little to change the economic fundamentals of the slowly recovering U.S. economy, it does change some of the strong geopolitical concerns which have been distracting Wall Street. It remains to be seen if the capture of the deposed Iraqi strongman may spell a turning in the Iraq conflict which has seen nearly 200 soldiers killed since the formal end of the war.
"This will remove some risk and fears of terrorism (in Iraq)," commented one Wall Street worker to CNBC just prior to the market's opening.
U.S. retailers are betting on the potential easing in geopolitical tension leading to a happier holiday shopping season.
"This is another piece of good news that consumers have been waiting for," said Ellen Tolley, a spokeswoman for the National Retail Federation. "Things like Saddam's capture, and the improved economy are events that improve consumer sentiment. (Saddam's capture) It's a building block -- not going to make or break the holiday season."
Consumer confidence has been at issue for the retail industry as Friday the University of Michigan University reported in its monthly index that consumer sentiment for December fell to 89.6 from 93.7 in November. Consensus estimates had called for a reading of 95.0, according to Thomson Financial.
Retail giant Wal-Mart Stores dampened market expectations Monday with its report that same-store sales for December would be coming it at the lower end of the of the company's 3 to 5 percent growth outlook for the holiday season. The company noted that while sales of gift-cards certificates have been popular, these are not considered part of its revenues until they are redeemed. The firm added that consumers appear to be completing their holiday shopping later in the season than expected.
Shoppers in Washington, D.C. gave a mixed response Monday to the apprehension of Hussein, with some saying had no affect on their shopping.
"It was exciting to hear the news, but it didn't affect how many presents family and friends were going to get," said Aija Moeller, an Arlington, Va. resident.
Maggie Maher, from Huntingtown, Md., said "It didn't put me in a good mood to go shopping -- but I was glad he got captured -- I was already in a good mood, it's the season."
On Wall Street the Dow Jones industrial average and the Nasdaq composite index were strong out of the gate, but ended on the down side, with the Dow dropping 19.34 points to close at 10,022.82 and the Nasdaq ending down by 30.74 points to close at 1,918.26.
For some months, it has been bulls versus bears on Wall Street, with bulls making a stronger showing as of late and the capture of Hussein looking to be yet another factor that might help push the stock market to a strong finish for the year.
President George W. Bush said during a morning press conference, that "I believe that yesterday was a day ... where America is more secure as a result of his capture. But more importantly, Saturday was a great day for the people who have suffered under this tyrant."
Still looming on the horizon however, is the ongoing threat of the nebulous Al Qaida terrorist network and the fact that terror mastermind Osama bin Laden is still at large.
Also, as if to punctuate the fact that not all is finished in the slow, painful Iraqi conflict, there have been four deadly car bombings in or nearby to Baghdad, primarily attacking Iraqi police stations since the capture and arrest of Saddam Hussein.