Shares of J.C. Penney Co. Inc. soared in the aftermath of a better-than-expected fourth-quarter results as retail shares managed small gains.

The S&P 500 Retailing Industry Group was up 0.1 percent to 934.32, padding its winning streak to six sessions. The Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 both ended with 0.5 percent increases, to 16,272.65 and 1,854.29, respectively.

Penney’s shares assumed a starring role in a generally flat market, rising 25.3 percent to $7.47, their first close above $7 since Jan. 15, following Wednesday evening’s report of the midtier retailer’s small net profit for the fourth quarter and word that a Securities and Exchange Commission inquiry into a secondary stock offering in September had ended.

Sears Holdings Corp. also enjoyed a stock lift based on earnings results. Shares were up 6.5 percent to $43.01 as its fourth-quarter loss of $358 million a share was lower than analysts had estimated. Kohl’s Corp. shares strengthened 2.4 percent to $55.74 following the company’s report on lower earnings that beat estimates and its own updated guidance.

However, Chico’s FAS Inc. saw its share drop 8.5 percent, to $16.47, on its small fourth-quarter loss and revenue decline of 6.4 percent.

After the markets closed, Gap Inc. reported lower fourth-quarter earnings that were slightly better than Wall Street had been figuring but provided guidance for 2014 EPS below analysts’ consensus views. Shares declined 0.5 percent to $43.68 during the day’s regular trading session and fell 1.7 percent, to $42.95, following the close of the markets and the release of results.
With the exception of London’s FTSE 100, which rose 0.2 percent to 6,810.27, European stock markets closed on a down note.

The DAX in Frankfurt fell 0.8 percent to 9,588.33, followed by the FTSE MIB in Milan, 0.4 percent to 20,320.98 and the CAC 40 in Paris, 0.01 percent to 4,396.39.

Among retail and luxury stocks, the day’s biggest gainers included Mulberry Group, 2.9 percent to 6.60 pounds, and Gemfields, 1.3 percent to 36 pence.

Stocks losing ground included Brunello Cucinelli, 1.3 percent to 20.34 euros; Ferragamo, 1.7 percent to 23.25 euros; Metro AG, 3.2 percent to 30.34 euros, and Bonmarché Holding, 2.8 percent to 2.81 pounds.

The euro traded at $1.37, while the pound fetched $1.67, and the Swiss franc equaled $1.13.