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Retail Stocks End Strong Year on Up Note

S&P 500 Retailing Industry Group's 0.6 percent gain puts full-year advance at 43.9 percent.

U.S. retail stocks concluded a strong year on a fittingly positive note today.

The S&P 500 Retailing Industry Group moved up 0.6 percent to 939.80, locking in a 43.9 percent gain for 2013, a year in which virtually all sectors of the fashion, retail and beauty sectors but teen specialty retailers enjoyed strong gains virtually without interruption.

The Dow Jones Industrial finished the last trading session of the year at 16,576.66, up 0.4 percent for the day and 26.5 percent for the year. The S&P 500 was also up 0.4 percent, to 1,848.36, to end 2013 with a 29.6 percent climb. It was the strongest annual performance of the century for both indices.

Markets were buoyed by word from The Conference Board of an improvement in its Consumer Confidence Index, which picked up to 78.1 in December from 72 in November and exceeded economists’ expectations.

Among the U.S.-based equities tracked by WWD, the year’s best performer turned in the day’s worst showing. Zale Corp., a leader in what has been a vibrant jewelry sector this holiday season, shed 4.4 percent to $15.77 Tuesday but concluded the year up 283.7 percent from its $4.11 close one year ago. The day’s strongest performance came from Birks Group Inc., up 11.8 percent to $1.52.

Twitter Inc. bounced back from two consecutive days of declines to close up 5.2 percent at $63.65.

Despite gains of 3.4 and 2.5 percent from The Wet Seal Inc. and American Apparel Inc., respectively, to $2.73 and $1.23, specialty retailers constituted the majority of issues registering declines. Among the teen specialists, Zumiez Inc. was down 1.8 percent to $26, Pacific Sunwear of California Inc. off 1.2 percent to $3.34, American Eagle Outfitters Inc. off 1.2 percent to $14.40 and Aéropostale Inc. off 1 percent to $9.09.

In Europe, both the DAX in Frankfurt and the FTSE MIB in Milan were closed on New Year’s Eve.

The FTSE 100 in London finished up 0.3 percent to 6,749.09, while the CAC 40 in Paris closed up 0.5 percent to 4,295.95.

Debenhams in London sank 10.8 percent to 0.73 pounds after the retailer issued a profit warning Tuesday. Debenhams said it now expects its profit before tax for the first half of 2014 to be in the region of 85 million pounds, or $140.1 million, versus a profit of 114.7 million, or $189.1 million in the same period in 2013.

The retailer said the expected fall in profits was due to factors including a decline in its gross margins in the 17 weeks to Dec. 28, which it attributed to its product category mix and higher markdowns. The retailer also noted that it “did not experience the anticipated final surge in sales in the last week of the period,” and as a result expects to make further markdowns to clear stock in January and February.

Asos.com fell 1 percent to 61.24 pounds and Next was down 0.4 percent to 54.50 pounds.

Stocks that gained ground included Burberry, which climbed 1.3 percent to 15.16 pounds; French Connection, which rose 5.8 percent to 0.36 pounds, and LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, up 0.3 percent to 132.60 euros.

The euro traded for $1.38 Tuesday, while the pound traded for $1.65.