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Retail Shares End Down Week With Small Gain

Ukraine tensions and drop in Michigan confidence index turn markets lower.

Retail stocks managed a small gain today as major U.S. and European markets fell on continuing anxiety about the Ukraine.

The S&P 500 Retailing Industry Group posted a 0.1 percent advance to 921.07 but was down 2.2 percent for the week and is off 2 percent for the year.

The rise for retail shares came as both the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 tracked down 0.3 percent, to 16,065 and 1,841.13, respectively. The tensions in the Ukraine sent the Dow down 2.4 percent for the week, leaving it 3.1 percent lower than at the start of the year. The S&P was down 2 percent for the week, dragging it back into negative territory in 2014 with a 0.4 percent decline.

Investors were also uncertain about the prospects for consumer spending after an unexpected drop in the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan index of consumer sentiment, to 79.9 in March from 81.6 in February.

Among U.S. retail stocks tracked by WWD, the extremes were driven by earnings reports.

Aéropostale Inc. registered the largest decline, falling 20.1 percent to $5.83, following its report late Thursday of a larger-than-expected fourth-quarter loss and $150 million in new financing from Sycamore Partners involving convertible preferred stock that could dilute current shareholders’ holdings.

Destination XL Group Inc. shares gave back 4.8 percent, to $5.54, after it reported a larger loss for the quarter than it had projected last month and said it was delaying the phase-out of its Casual Male stores until 2017.

On the other hand, Ann Inc. rose most among the WWD sample, with shares up 7.6 percent to $37.53 after it posted better-than-expected profits for the final quarter of 2013 and said it would launch a new brand, Lou & Grey, in addition to streamlining some operations at a cost of about 100 jobs.

Zumiez shares were up 0.6 percent to $25.06 after it posted a fourth-quarter “beat” of its own, making it one of the few retailers in the teen sector to provide a positive surprise during this year’s mostly disappointing earnings season.

The lead-up to a vote on the fate of Crimea this Sunday depressed stocks in Europe, with most major indices finishing below their daily starting points.

The FTSE MIB in Milan was down 0.8 percent to 20,421.67, followed by the CAC 40 in Paris, 0.8 percent to 4,216.37, and the FTSE 100 in London, 0.4 percent to 6,527.89. The DAX in Frankfurt made a marginal gain rising 0.4 percent to 9,056.41.

All four exchanges were down for the week, led by the 3.4 percent downturn for the CAC 40. Of the four, only the FTSE MIB is up for the year with a hefty 7.7 percent gain.

Retail and luxury stocks were mostly down, with the exception of Boohoo.com, the online fast-fashion retailer that made its debut on London’s AIM market.

The stock rose 40 percent, closing at 70 pence, after reaching a high of 85 pence earlier in the day. Its float price was set at 50 pence.

Among the other stocks that gained ground was Beiersdorf AG, which advanced 1.1 percent to 68.75 euros.

Stocks giving up substantial ground included Aeffe, off 5 percent to 0.76 euros; Carrefour SA, 2 percent to 26.60 euros; Compagnie Financière Richemont SA, 2.1 percent to 81.50 Swiss francs; Ferragamo, 3.4 percent to 21.04 euros; Yoox.com, 3 percent to 28.24 euros, and the Indian online fashion retailer Koovs, 5.2 percent to 2 pounds.

The euro traded at $1.39 against the U.S. dollar while the pound fetched $1.67 and the Swiss franc equaled $1.15.

Crimea’s parliament is widely expected to declare independence and attempt to join the Russian Federation in a vote set for Sunday.