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Retail Stocks Start Second Half Strong

Analysts see potential for continued strength in sector.

Retail stocks kicked off the second half on Monday in fine style, comfortably outperforming Wall Street — and analysts said the resilient consumer could propel stocks further during the key back-to-school and holiday seasons.

This story first appeared in the July 2, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The S&P 500 Retail Industry Group rose 1.1 percent, or 8.57 points, to 796.94, outpacing the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which increased 0.4 percent, or 65.36 points, to 14,974.96. Retail stocks jumped 20.7 percent during the first half, ahead of the Dow’s 13.8 percent gain.

Consumers, who, according to sentiment surveys, have regained their prerecession confidence as the housing market improved, might be poised to send retailers higher.

“The consumer is still on track,” said Matthew Boss, a stock analyst at J.P. Morgan. “The consumer places an emphasis on the value of their home and that home equity is really the backbone of their ability to spend.”

Boss said retailers aren’t likely to break any revenue record over June or July, but could perk up as b-t-s price cuts take hold.

“While the consumer will come out, I think it will be a promotional back-to-school, and a well-received back-to-school will lead to a good holiday,” he said.

The holiday season will have six fewer shopping days this year versus last year, which could muddy the waters, but Boss said the fall comparisons could be favorable given the focus on the elections last year.

“Retail should do OK,” said Paul Nolte, managing director with Dearborn Partners in Chicago. “We’ve been counting out the consumer for some time and the consumer continues to be in there spending. The general retailers — Wal-Mart, Dollar General and Target — will be fine.”

Nolte predicted the market would grow by fits and starts, gaining another 4 to 5 percent this year as investors keep a close eye on the Federal Reserve’s moves and corporate earnings.

Fashion gainers on Monday included The Bon-Ton Stores Inc., up 4.1 percent to $18.79; Maidenform Brands Inc., 2.6 percent to $17.78; Gap Inc., 2.6 percent to $42.80; Nordstrom Inc., 2.1 percent to $61.21; The Men’s Wearhouse Inc., 2.1 percent to $38.65, and Kohl’s Corp., 2.1 percent to $51.57.

Markets also gained ground in Europe, where Canada’s former central bank chief Mark Carney became governor of the Bank of England, succeeding Sir Mervyn King. Markets are hoping that Carney will be able to jump start the British economy.

Milan’s FTSE MIB rose 1.5 percent to 15,459.57, as London’s FTSE 100 increased 1 percent to 6,307.78; Paris’ CAC 40 advanced 0.8 percent to 3,767.48, and Frankfurt’s DAX inched up 0.3 percent to 7,983.92.