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Ukraine Crisis Hits Stocks

U.S. retail shares break seven-session winning streak, decline 0.5%.

Tensions in Ukraine spread to the west and rippled across the Atlantic, sending markets in Europe and the U.S. sharply down to begin the month.

After seven consecutive trading days of gains dating back to Feb. 20, the S&P Retailing Industry Group began March with a 0.5 percent decline to 932.63, while the major U.S. indices suffered greater declines. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 0.9 percent and the S&P 500 shed 0.7 percent to end the day at 16,168.03 and 1,845.73, respectively.

The most severe decline among fashion, retail and beauty issues tracked by WWD came from Nu Skin Enterprises Inc., down 10.7 percent to $74.61 after the direct marketing firm forecast first-quarter results below analysts’ consensus estimates. The beauty firm also posted fourth-quarter profitability that topped estimates. Christopher & Banks Corp. was off 4.8 percent to $6.34 and Tilly’s Inc. down 3.2 percent to $11.58.

As The Men’s Wearhouse Inc. and Jos. A. Bank Clothiers Inc. hammered out a non-disclosure agreement as a starting point for talks on an acquisition of the latter by the former, both companies added to their market capitalization. Men’s Wearhouse shares rose 0.6 percent to $54.10 while Jos. A. Bank’s were up 0.4 percent to $62.31, just 19 cents shy of the per-share bid rejected by the company last week.

Among other publicly held firms bucking the downward trend were Bebe Stores Inc., up 11.2 percent to $6.75, and J.C. Penney Co. Inc., continuing its upward momentum with a 9.3 percent advance to $7.96. American Apparel Inc. also rose, logging a 4.5 percent advance to 75 cents, while Sears Holdings Corp. rose 3.3 percent to $46.24.

Late Monday, Standard & Poor’s Ratings Service lifted its outlook on Penney’s to “stable” from “negative” based on “modest improvements during the seasonally important fourth quarter.” S&P credit analyst David Kuntz commented that, with the midtier retailer’s performance stabilizing, the liquidity assessment has risen to “adequate” from “less than adequate.”

“The capital structure is unsustainable, but the company does not have any meaningful maturities over the next 12 months,” Kuntz said.

Ascena Retail Group Inc. was up 3.2 percent to $18.87 in trading during the day but fell 6.7 percent, back to $17.60, in the first hour after the markets closed following a report on second-quarter results that included a downward revision of its full-year earnings.

Europe’s markets reacted more dramatically to the escalating crisis in Ukraine.

The DAX in Frankfurt sank 3.4 percent to 9,358.89, followed by the FTSE MIB in Milan, 3.3 percent to 19,759.69; the CAC 40 in Paris, 2.7 percent to 4,290.87, and the FTSE 100 in London, 1.5 percent to 6,708.35.

Retail and luxury stocks were down, with the exception of miner Gemfields, parent of Fabergé, which was essentially flat.

Gemfields posted a slide in first-half profits to $1.4 million from $4.7 million in the corresponding period last year, due to extraordinary investment costs. Sales were up 137 percent to $65.7 million in the six-month period.

Among the day’s biggest decliners were Aeffe, down 4.6 percent to 0.79 euros; Carrefour SA, 2.9 percent to 25.95 euros; Geox, 7.2 percent to 2.95 euros; Metro AG, 5.4 percent to 28.41 euros; Yoox.com, 4.4 percent to 29.63 euros, and Ferragamo, 3.3 percent to 22.39 euros.

The euro traded at $1.38 against the U.S. dollar, while the pound fetched $1.67, and the Swiss franc fetched $1.13.