Retail shares returned to positive ground despite the Commerce Department’s report of sales declines in January.

The S&P 500 Retailing Industry Group recorded a 0.9 percent increase to 896.49 following news early in the day of a 0.4 percent decline in overall retail sales compared to December, with apparel and accessories stores down a seasonally adjusted 0.9 percent and department stores off 1.5 percent. An arctic climate outside and promotional one in stores kept a lid on sales throughout the month.

The retail index rose more rapidly than either the broader S&P 500, up 0.6 percent to 1,829.83, or the Dow Jones Industrial Average, up 0.4 percent to 16,027.59. It was the Dow’s first close above 16,000 since Jan. 23.

Leading the retail charge was Sears Holdings Corp., which rose 7.5 percent to $43.42 after news Force Capital Management, headed by Robert Jaffe, held a 6.3 million share, or 5.6 percent, passive stake in the firm. Barry Berkowitz’s Fairholme Capital Management, previously owners of a 17.1 percent stake, increased its stake to 22.8 percent.

Shares of Elizabeth Arden Inc. rose 6.9 percent to $28.57 and American Apparel Inc.’s shares advanced 6.1 percent to $1.01.

J.C. Penney Co. Inc. saw its shares pick up 0.5 percent to $5.99 after it said that Edward Record, formerly of Stage Stores Inc. and Kohl’s Corp., would succeed Ken Hannah as executive vice president and chief financial officer on March 24. Analysts viewed the appointment as an indication of an endorsement of gradual change in the troubled retailer’s finances, rather than a more aggressive restructuring approach.

Shares of Oxford Industries Inc. rose 2 percent to $76.56 but declined 4 percent, to $73.37, in the early stages of after-hours trading after the Atlanta-based owner of Tommy Bahama and Lilly Pulitzer pulled down its fourth-quarter guidance based on what chief executive officer Thomas Chubb 3rd term a “weaker than expected” performance from the Ben Sherman business.

Adjusted earnings per share for the three months are now expected to range between 83 and 88 cents on revenues of about $250 million, lower than the EPS range of 98 cents to $1.13 and revenue projection of between $255 million and $265 million provided earlier.

Penney’s gain as cfo proved to be Stage Stores Inc.’s loss, with the latter’s shares off 3.4 percent to $18.81. Avon Products Inc. shares fell 3.1 percent to $14.60 after the company estimated that its settlement with the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission could cost up to $132 million.

Most European markets rose, although the FTSE MIB in Milan, the strongest performer of the major indices in Europe so far this year, had a down day, surrendering 0.2 percent to land at 20,110.30.

The DAX in Frankfurt trended up 1.3 percent to 9,411.84, followed by the FTSE 100 in London, up 0.7 percent to 6,635.98, and the CAC 40 in Paris, ahead 0.5 percent to 4,259.70.

Asos.com shares had a good day, rising 6.2 percent to 66.69 pounds. Geox was up 3.1 percent to 3.03 euros in Milan while Mulberry Group rallied 1.7 percent to close at 6.77 pounds in London.

Among those shedding value on the day were Prada, 4.9 percent to 60.55 Hong Kong dollars. Esprit was off 1.4 percent to 14.26 Hong Kong dollars and Kering down 1 percent to 152.55 euros. The euro traded for $1.36 against the U.S. dollar while the pound brought $1.64 and the Hong Kong dollar 12.9 cents.