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Retail Stocks Helped by Strong February Sales Report

Sector posts another new high on Wall Street.

Retail stocks posted another record-high close today as Wall Street also continued its rally as a retail sales report topped expectations.


The S&P 500 Retailing Industry Group gained 0.5 percent, or 3.58 points, to 730.61, its best close ever, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average inched up 5.22 points to 14,455.28.


The gainers included Zumiez Inc., up 8.7 percent to $24.49; The Bon-Ton Stores Inc., 8.1 percent to $13.51; Iconix Brand Group Inc., 4.4 percent to $24.31; Quiksilver Inc., 4.1 percent to $6.31, and Michael Kors Holdings Ltd., 4 percent to $58.51.


February retail sales rose 1.1 percent versus January, much stronger than the 0.2 percent gain economists projected.


In Europe, markets were mostly down after a report showed industrial production in the euro area fell 0.4 percent in January, adding to signs that the region’s recession extended into the first quarter. London’s FTSE 100 dropped 0.5 percent to 6,481.50, the CAC 40 in Paris fell 0.1 percent to 3,836.04 and Milan’s FTSE MIB shrank 1.7 percent to 15,745.34. The DAX in Frankfurt made a slight increase of 0.1 percent to 7,970.91.


The pound traded at $1.49 against the dollar and the euro was worth $1.30.


Retail and luxury shares were mostly down. The decliners included Ferragamo and Geox, which both contracted 2.8 percent, to 20.90 and 2.13 euros, respectively.


Shares of Inditex dropped 2.6 percent to 105.65 euros after the firm reported an annual profit increase of 22 percent to 2.36 billion euros, the slowest pace in five quarters.


Among the stocks gaining ground were Hermès International, up 1.1 percent to 260.55 euros, and Yoox, which climbed 1.9 percent to 14.76 euros.


French Connection advanced 10.2 percent to 0.27 pounds, after the company said that 2012-13 results were in line with market expectations.


The British high street retailer posted a loss of 10.5 million pounds and an 8.4 decrease in revenue to 197.3 million pounds in the 12 months to January 31. French Connection  is in the midst of an overhaul aimed at returning the business to profitability.


“After a difficult trading year, I am pleased that many of the initiatives we have taken in order to provide a new impetus to sales growth are beginning to show interesting results,” said Stephen Marks, the company’s chairman and chief executive.


“Although it is very early days in the New Year, we have seen a better performance in U.K. retail, and we expect this to build as the year progresses,” he said. “We are managing the business tightly in order to increase full-price sales volumes, limit discounting, manage inventory levels, control cash and build confidence with our customers.”