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Retail Continues Rise as Markets Slip

Investors keep cautious eye on the Chinese economic engine.

U.S. retail stocks maintained their resiliency today, inching up to a new high even as markets slipped on global economic concerns.

The S&P Retail Index managed to rise 0.3 percent, or 1.55 points, to 586.33. The broad measure of retail continues to push its limits and hit a new all-time high of 587.94 in midday trading. The retail gainers included Aéropostale Inc., up 2.9 percent to $18.63; Charming Shoppes Inc., 2.3 percent to $5.83; Liz Claiborne Inc., 1.8 percent to $11.63; Abercrombie & Fitch Co., 1.5 percent to $49; Urban Outfitters Inc., 1.5 percent to $28.52, and Michael Kors Holdings, 1.4 percent to $48.63.

Markets in general pulled back after China cut its projected growth rate to 7.5 percent this year — the first time the country has lowered its target since setting it at around 8 percent in 2005.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said the government would “make progress while maintaining stability,” according to Xinhua, the country’s official news service. “We have a good balance between government revenue and expenditures and a sound financial system, and there is ample nongovernmental capital,” he said.

There were also signs of caution out of Europe, where the Euro zone’s purchasing managers’ index for services and industry declined in February.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average drifted 14.76 points lower to 12,926.81.

In Europe, Frankfurt’s DAX fell 0.8 percent to 6,866.46 as Milan’s FTSE MIB tumbled 0.7 percent to 16,787.15, London’s FTSE 100 slid 0.6 percent to 5,874.82 and Paris’ CAC 40 retreated 0.4 percent to 3,487.54.

Retail sales in the Euro zone rose 0.3 percent in January, but experts argue that weak consumer spending continues to be a problem in the region.

Retail and luxury stocks were mostly down with the day’s biggest decliners including Asos.com, which tumbled 4.3 percent to 17 pounds; Mulberry Group, which sank 1.3 percent to 19 pounds, and Yoox.com, falling 1 percent to 10.46 euros.

Among the stocks that bucked the downward trend were Beiersdorf, which rose 1.3 percent to 48.42 euros; French Connection, which was up 3.8 percent to 48 pence; and Safilo Group, which climbed 2.7 percent to 5.60 euros.

The euro traded at $1.32, while the pound traded at $1.58.

The Hang Seng Index fell 1.4 percent to 21,265 in Hong Kong and the Nikkei 225 slipped 0.8 percent to 9,699 in Tokyo.