By and  on May 15, 2013

Retail stocks and e-commerce sales are continuing to set new records.

Shares of retailers pressed on to new highs on Wall Street today as the market rally rolled on. And the Commerce Department said e-commerce made up 5.5 percent of all U.S. retail sales in the first quarter, a record and up from a 5.4 percent share in the fourth quarter.Seasonally adjusted e-commerce sales increased 15.2 percent to $61.17 billion versus a year earlier, while total retail sales, including e-commerce, inched up just 3.7 percent to $1.12 trillion.

“E-commerce retail sales continue to gain share and seem relatively impervious to the recent ups and downs of brick-and-mortar sales and consumer mood,” said Chris Christopher, director of consumer economics at IHS Global Insight. “The two main retail shopping seasons — holiday and back-to-school season — are increasingly being influenced by cyber space. We expect e-commerce retail sales to increase around 15 percent in 2013, and continue to make significant inroads in the traditional retail business model.”

Retailers are acutely aware of the importance of e-commerce and are trying to integrate clicks into their brick and mortar businesses with an omni-channel approach. The emphasis on the Web is providing crucial growth for many retailers, which stores in turn point to while trying to draw investors.

With some signs of life in the employment market and low interest hurting bond returns, investors are looking for somewhere to put their money and driving up retail and other stocks.The S&P 500 Retailing Industry Group rose 0.8 percent, or 5.94 points, to 794.20, today as the Dow Jones Industrial Average increased 0.4 percent, or 60.44 points, to 15,275.69. Both indices closed at record highs.

The day’s fashion industry gainers included Aéropostale Inc., up 4.2 percent to $16.02; Quiksilver Inc., up 3.8 percent to $7.69, and Macy's Inc., which gained 2.5 percent to $48.57 after the company posted gains in first-quarter sales and earnings.

In the euro zone, European stock markets climbed as weak economic growth reports raised hopes the European Central Bank would consider more measures to help boost the sluggish economy. Milan’s FTSE MIB gained 1 percent to 17,492.97, as Paris’ CAC 40 rose 0.4 percent to 3,982.23 and Frankfurt’s DAX increased 0.3 percent to 8,362.42.

Outside the currency bloc In London, the FTSE 100 increased 0.1 percent to 6,693.55 after the Bank of England upgraded its economic growth forecast for the country and said inflation should fall faster than previously predicted.

Retail and luxury stocks were mostly up, with the day’s biggest gainers including Marks & Spencer, up 3.7 percent to 4.36 pounds; Compagnie Financière Richemont, 2.8 percent to 82.55 Swiss francs, and Burberry, 2.1 percent to 14.23 pounds. was among those losing ground, dropping 1.7 percent to 16.03 euros.

The pound traded at $1.51 against the dollar, the euro $1.31 and the Swiss franc $1.07.

In the euro zone, official figures show that France is once again in recession — for the second time in four years — with the economy having contracted by 0.2 percent in the first quarter. The Germany economy, which has been Europe’s powerhouse, grew by just 0.1 percent in the quarter.

In the U.K., unemployment rose to 2.5 million in the first quarter with the overall rate at 7.8 percent, according to the Office of National Statistics.

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