Retail Stocks Hit New High

J.C. Penney regains some positive momentum, gains 5.5 percent.

Retail stocks hit a new record on Wall Street today, helped along by general market bullishness as well as solid increases from J.C. Penney Co. Inc. and companies weighing in with March sales results.

The S&P 500 Retailing Industry Group closed up 1.2 percent, or 9.01 points, to 747.34, having set a new record high of 751.72 in midday trading. Retail outperformed the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which rose 0.4 percent, or  62.90 points, to 14,865.14, the highest close ever for Blue Chip stocks.

J.C. Penney Co. Inc. increased 5.5 percent to $14.86, gaining traction after activist investor William Ackman told WWD late Wednesday that he would continue to support the company even after his chosen chief executive officer, Ron Johnson, was ousted after a year of steep losses. The stock is still down 6.4 percent since Johnson was replaced by Myron “Mike” Ullman 3rd.

Shares of Ross Stores Inc. increased 5.9 percent to $63.80 after the company said  March comps rose 2 percent and boosted its first-quarter earnings guidance. And L Brands Inc., the former Limited Brands, saw its stock gain 4.3 percent to $50.25 after the company’s Victoria’s Secret chain comped up 2 percent, the Bath & Body Works unit rose 4 percent and the smaller La Senza business comped up 7 percent.

Also gaining ground were Michael Kors Holdings Ltd., up 4 percent to $57.31, and Lululemon Athletica Inc., ahead 3.4 percent to $68.81.

In Europe, all the major stock markets closed ahead, with the CAC 40 in Paris leading the way, up 0.9 percent to 3,775.66. Frankfurt’s DAX rose 0.8 percent to 7,871.63, Milan’s FSTE MIB climbed 0.6 percent to 16,020.91, and London’s FTSE 100 gained 0.5 percent to 6,416.14.

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

It was an upbeat day almost across the board for retail and luxury stocks, with the day’s biggest gainers including Burberry, up 3 percent to 13.18 pounds; Compagnie Financière Richemont, 2.2 percent to 73.75 Swiss francs, and Asos.com, 2.4 percent to 32.24 pounds. Marks & Spencer climbed 4.3 percent to 4 pounds after it beat analysts expectations in its fourth-quarter trading report, with growth in sales led by food.

Bucking the upward trend was Ferragamo, which slid 1.4 percent to 21.77 euros.