By and  on January 18, 2012

A boost from Sears Holdings Corp. and Amazon.com helped retail stocks outpaced the market today, pushing the sector up 2.4 percent—its best showing in more than four weeks.

The S&P Retail Index gained 12.71 points to 551.91 as the Dow Jones Industrial Average advanced 0.8 percent, or 96.88 points, to 12,578.95.

Sears had another strong rally, rising 7.5 percent to $39.49. The ailing retailer's stock spiked 9.5 percent Tuesday on rumors of a possible takeover. Amazon was also solid, perking up 4.3 percent to $189.44.

Among the other gainers were Joe's Jeans Inc., up 12.4 percent to 64 cents; Hanesbrands Inc.,6.4 percent to $24.13; Destination Maternity Corp., 5.6percent to $15.73; Fossil Inc., 4.5 percent to $90.49, and Chico's FAS Inc., 4.1 percent to $11.44.

In Europe, markets were broadly flat despite a mixed reading on economies in the region. In the U.K., November unemployment rose to 8.4 percent from 8.3 percent, the highest since January 1996, according to the Office of National Statistics. Greece resumed crucial talks with its creditors and Germany cut its economic growth forecast for 2012 to 0.7 percent from 1 percent.

Paris' CAC 40 fell 0.2 percent to 3,264.93, while Milan's FTSE MIB sank 0.3 percent to 15,278. The FTSE 100 in London and the DAX in Frankfurt fared better, with the former closing up 0.2 percent to 5,702.37, and the latter advancing 0.3 percent to 6,354.57.

Retail and luxury stocks were mostly on the upswing with the day’s biggest gainers including Benetton Group, which climbed 3.6 percent to 3.26 euros; French Connection, which advanced 8.1 percent to 0.43 pounds; and Hermes, which climbed 2.5 percent o 258.95 euros. The euro traded at $1.28 while the pound traded at $1.54.

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