By and  on January 8, 2014

Major global indices were generally down slightly, although in the U.S. the equity indices ended mixed on Wednesday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.4 percent to 16,462.74, while the S&P 500 Retailing Industry Group in the U.S. inched up 0.2 percent to 932.60. Among the retail gainers were Zale Corp., up 3.5 percent to $16.51, Coldwater Creek Inc., up 1.2 percent to 83 cents and Delia’s Inc., up 1.1 percent to 92 cents. Among the losers were J.C. Penney Co. Inc, which fell 10 percent to $7.37 after the retailer provided an update of its performance during the holiday season, but left out specifics on data to quantify its conclusions. The 64-word statement, for a 61-day holiday selling season, said it was “pleased” with its performance and noted its “continued progress” in its turnaround efforts. Penney’s also said customers “responded well” to its merchandise offerings. It reaffirmed fourth-quarter guidance for sequential and year-over-year improvement in comparable-store sales and gross margin. Maxim Group analyst Rick Snyder said that Penney’s “December sale release is remarkable for being unremarkable.” He noted that there was no quantification of December comps, although the November sales release had noted that comps had risen by 10.1 percent. Snyder also pointed out that investors “deal in absolutes, while adjectives are wholly subjective.” So while investors weren’t pleased with the lack of “absolute” information, Snyder did conclude that there was one positive takeaway from the update: Penney’s still expects to end the quarter with $2 billion in liquidity, the part of the outlook that was reaffirmed. Other retailers that saw declines were Pacific Sunwear of California, down 5.9 percent to $3.37, and Christopher & Banks Corp., which decreased 3.9 percent to $7.34. In overseas trading, the markets in Europe generally were down slightly, although London’s FTSE 100 endured a 0.5 percent drop to 6,721.78 after grocer J. Sainsbury report a 0.2 percent increase in third-quarter same-store sales and issued a cautious outlook regarding post-holiday spending. Milan’s FTSE MIB declined 0.2 percent, to 19,436.30, while the CAC 40 in Paris and DAX in Frankfurt fell less than 0.1 percent, with the Paris index landing at 4,260.96 and Frankfurt’s at 9,497.84. Decliners in the fashion and luxury sectors included Ferragamo, off 5.8 percent to 26 euros; Brunello Cucinelli, off 5 percent to 24.85 euros, and Moncler, down 4.2 percent to 14.75 euros. Bucking the generally downward trend were Prada, up 3.7 percent to 71.59 Hong Kong dollars, and value retailer Bonmarché Holdings, up 3.6 percent to 2.56 pounds. Bonmarché isn’t related to the Le Bon Marché department store in Paris. The euro traded for $1.36 against the U.S. dollar versus $1.64 for the pound, $1.10 for the Swiss franc and 12.9 cents for the Hong Kong dollar.

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