By and  on April 14, 2014

Encouraging news about March retail sales lifted stocks and helped retail shares retake some of the ground lost during a two-day slide late last week.

The S&P 500 Retailing Industry Group advanced 0.8 percent to 854.45 after surrendering 4.4 percent of its standing during two days of losses, including a 3 percent contraction on Thursday which ranked as the worst day of the year for the index.

The retail index mirrored the 0.9 percent increase by the Dow Jones Industrial Average to close at 16,173.24 and the 0.8 percent rally by the S&P 500 to 1,830.61.

European markets also advanced.

Investors began the day on a positive note with word from the Commerce Department that overall retail sales rose 1.1 percent to $433.9 billion last month, ahead of analysts’ projections and the largest boost since September 2012. While driven heavily by auto-related sales, the report was welcome news to those who have been chastened by recent accounts of disappointing sales and profits.

Among the retail, fashion and beauty issues monitored by WWD, the largest gain of the day came from Bebe Stores Inc., shares of which jumped 15.2 percent to $6.69 following an upgrade to “buy” from “neutral” by Janney Capital Markets analyst Adrienne Tennant. She expects the retailer to generate positive comparable sales and return to profitability soon after improvement in its sales-to-inventory ratio in the first quarter.

Christopher & Banks Corp. and Tilly’s Inc. were among the companies to register advances above those of the S&P retail index. Christopher & Banks shares were up 3.8 percent to $6.54 while Tilly’s trended up 3 percent to $11.17.

While specialty stores accounted for the biggest increases of the day, they also were responsible for some of the larger declines. Cache Inc. shares gave back 3.7 percent to close at $3.16, The Wet Seal Inc. was off 3.5 percent to $1.09, Aéropostale Inc. gave back 3 percent to $4.48 and Pacific Sunwear of California Inc. declined 2.9 percent to $2.68.

In Europe, Milan’s FTSE MIB led the way with an 0.6 percent increase to 21,314.56, followed by the CAC 40 in Paris, up 0.4 percent to 4,384.56. The FTSE 100 in London and the DAX in Frankfurt both climbed 0.3 percent to 6,583.76 and to 9,339.17 respectively.

Retail and luxury stocks were mostly up, with the day’s biggest gainers including French Connection Group, which climbed 10.8 percent to 74 pence following a trading update in which it reported an 11 percent gain in sales in the U.K. and Europe in the 11 weeks ended April 12, albeit against weak year-ago comparisons.

Other gainers included Brunello Cucinelli and Bonmarche Holding, each ahead 2.6 percent, to 20.45 euros and to 2.98 pounds, respectively, while Hugo Boss advanced 3.2 percent to 98.05 euros. Tod’s, meanwhile, advanced 5 percent to 100 euros while Ferragamo was up 3.2 percent to 23.10 euros.

Among the few stocks that lost ground were Koovs, down 2.4 percent to 1.77 pounds; Mulberry Group, 2.7 percent to 7.11 euros; Marks & Spencer Group, 2 percent to 4.27 pounds, and Ted Baker, 5.3 percent to 19.88 pounds.

The euro traded at $1.39 against the U.S. dollar, while the pound fetched $1.67, and the Swiss franc equaled $1.14.

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