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Retail Stocks Inch Up on Wall Street

Sector posts 0.2 percent gain despite sharp J.C. Penney drop.

Retail stocks eked out a small gain on Wall Street today despite a big drop from J.C. Penney Co. Inc., which fell in the wake of debt and equity downgrades.

The S&P 500 Retailing Industry Group rose 0.2 percent, or 1.08 points, to 636.31 today, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average was roughly flat, slipping 0.23 points to 12,815.16.

Penney’s posted the biggest retail decline of the day, falling 12.9 percent to $17.97. Standard & Poor’s cut the firm’s credit rating two notches to “B-minus” late Friday and Credit Suisse downgraded the stock to underperform.

The day’s fashion gainers included Zale Corp., up 9.5 percent to $7.50; Coldwater Creek Inc., 7.2 percent to $4.60; VF Corp., 4.4 percent to $159.68, and Lululemon Athletica Inc., 2.2 percent to $69.23.

Markets were modestly down in Europe.

The FTSE MIB in Milan and the CAC 40 in Paris both fell 0.4 percent, to 15,121.70 and to 3,411.65, respectively, followed by the FTSE 100 in London, which declined 0.04 percent to 5,767.27.

The DAX in Frankfurt was the only market that gained ground, rising 0.1 percent to 7,168.76. Retail and luxury stocks put on a mixed show, with the day’s biggest gainers including Burberry Group, which was up 2.5 percent to 12.47 pounds; Compagnie Financière Richemont, 2.4 percent to 66.05 euros; Mulberry Group, 3 percent to 10.51 pounds, and Ferragamo, 1.7 percent to 15.96 euros.

Among the stocks that lost ground were Yoox, off 1.7 percent to 11.15 euros; Safilo Group, 3.1 percent to 6.34 euros, and Carrefour, 1.8 percent to 18.34 euros.

The euro traded at $1.27 versus the U.S. dollar while the pound traded at $1.59.