Stronger-than-expected job gains in the U.S. helped push retail stocks and the Dow Jones Industrial Average to new record highs today, capping a historic week for Wall Street.

The S&P 500 Retailing Industry Group rose 0.9 percent, or 6.75 points, to 727.68, as the Dow increased 0.5 percent, or 67.58 points, to 14,397.07. That’s the highest close ever for both indexes. While retail broke through to new ground earlier this year, the Dow just this week moved into new territory, finally shrugging off the financial crisis and recession.


The stock market tends to look about six months into the future, so a solid employment report for February helped support what investors were already thinking—that better times lie ahead even though the economic recovery is still weak.


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U.S. payrolls rose by 236,000 last month, better than the 152,000 economists projected.

The fashion gainers were led by Ann Inc., which rose 7.9 percent to $31.28 after the company’s fourth-quarter profits came in stronger than analysts projected.

Also perking up were Zumiez Inc. ahead 4.8 percent to $23.06; American Eagle Outfitters, 3.2 percent to $21.07; The Buckle Inc., 3 percent to $46.23; Lululemon Athletica Inc., 2.8 percent to $69.92, and Hanesbrands Inc., 2.6 percent to $40.09.

Signs of strengthening in the U.S. employment market also helped European equities.

Milan’s FTSE MIB climbed 1.6 percent to 16,204.03, followed by Paris’ CAC 40, which advanced 1.2 percent to 3,840.15. The FTSE 100 in London was up 0.7 percent to 6,483.58 and Frankfurt’s DAX edged up 0.6 percent to 7,986.47.

The euro traded at $1.30 against the dollar, while the pound was worth $1.50.

Retail and luxury stocks were mostly up, with the day’s biggest gainers including Safilo, up 5.5 percent to 9.80 euros; Inditex, increasing 1.5 percent to 108.15 euros, and Carrefour, ahead 2.8 percent to 22.61 euros after reporting Thursday that its net profit more than tripled in 2012.

Among the stocks losing ground were Marks & Spencer, down 1 percent to 3.62 pounds, and Mulberry, which dipped 0.4 percent to 12.95 pounds.