Retail Stocks Rise 1.3% as Dow Hits New High

Gap stock gains on strong comp sales.

Retail stocks gained 1.3 percent on Wall Street today as the Dow Jones Industrial Average inched up to set a new record high close.

The S&P 500 Retailing Industry Group gained 10.54 points to close at 847.62, as the benchmark Dow Jones added 0.2 percent to close at 16,583.34 — its highest close ever. (The index has reached higher in intraday trading).

Despite the milestone, the Dow Jones is just barely up for the year so far, after rising 26 percent in 2013 as the Federal Reserve sought to keep the recovery going by buying billions in Treasury notes.  While the scene appears to be set for economic improvement for retailers, consumers are still struggling with slow income growth and have generally been reticent to buy this year — although some retailers, such as Gap Inc., reported comparable-store gains for April that were encouraging.

Gap weighed in with a 9 percent overall comp sales gain for April on Thursday and was rewarded with a stock increase today of 3.3 percent, to $40.52. Also perking up were Abercrombie & Fitch Co., ahead 3.4 percent to $37.23; Ann Inc., 3.2 percent to $39.59; American Eagle Outfitters, 3.1 percent to$11.50, and J.C. Penney Co. Inc., 2.9 percent to $8.80.

In Europe, markets were down as pro-Russian separatists continued to clash with the local government authorities despite Russian President Vladimir Putin’s moves to dampen tensions.

The FTSE MIB in Milan lost the most ground, falling 1.6 percent to 21,390.11, followed by the CAC 40 in Paris, 0.7 percent to 4,477.28, the FSTE 100 in London, 0.4 percent to 6,814.57, and the DAX in Frankfurt, 0.3 percent to 9,581.45.

The euro traded at $1.39 against the U.S. dollar, while the pound fetched $1.70, and the Swiss franc equaled $1.14.

The decliners included Bonmarche Holding, off 2.1 percent to 2.85 pounds; Brunello Cucinelli, 1.7 percent to 20.31 euros; Metro, 2.4 percent to 28.21 euros, and Koovs, 2.5 percent to 1.59 pounds.

The gainers included Marks & Spencer Group, up 2 percent to 4.58 pounds; Debenhams, 2 percent to 82 pence, and Kering, 1.4 percent to 156 euros.