Retail stocks pulled off their first winning week of the year after advancing 1.6 percent today.
The S&P 500 Retailing Industry Group rose 14.21 points to 885.86, lifting its string of up days to four. The advance for the week was 2.1 percent over last Friday’s close and reduced the losses for the year so far to a 5.7 percent decline.
For the day and the week, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 managed smaller gains but are off less for the year to date. The Dow rose 1.1 percent to 15,794.08 while the S&P picked up 1.3 percent to 1,797.02. The Dow was up 0.6 percent for the week and is now 4.7 percent down for the year, while the S&P’s weekly advanced was 0.8 percent, reducing its 2014 decline to 2.8 percent.
Retail stocks appeared to be on an upswing as fears about the damage done by inclement weather and promotional activity was assuaged by January and fourth-quarter sales results released by retailers including Kohl’s Corp., Ann Inc., Gap Inc. and L Brands Inc. on Thursday.
Among the strongest retailer performers for the day were Bebe Stores Inc., up 14.6 percent to $5.42 after it reported a smaller second-quarter loss than analysts expected; Gap Inc., up 5.8 percent to $42 principally on better than anticipated January comparable-store sales results, and Ann Inc., up 2.3 percent to $33.41 in the aftermath of an end-of-year update in which it reported “lower than anticipated” fourth-quarter results but projected gross margin improvement in the months ahead.
While American Apparel Inc. late Thursday reported that its same-store sales were down 4 percent in January and its online sales off 6 percent, investors were optimistic that its difficult transition to a new distribution center was largely behind it and sent shares up 1.8 percent to 95 cents.
Brean Capital analyst Eric Beder commented that “the company's distribution center debacle now appears to be behind them and we believe, with management fully focused on operations, that the potential to shift back to positive same store sales and results, especially with key fashion shifts to their bread-and-butter looks, is rapidly improving.” He maintained his “buy” rating and $2.50 target price on the stock.
Among those losing ground were J.C. Penney Co. Inc. and Stein Mart Inc., both down 2.7 percent, to $5.51 and $12.11, respectively.
Investors largely shrugged off both the disappointing number of jobs created — 113,000 — in January and the reduction in the unemployment rate — to 6.6 percent — in the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ monthly report.
European stock markets also ended the week on a high, locking in modest gains at the close of trading.
The FTSE MIB in Milan and the CAC 40 in Paris were both up 1 percent, to 19,692.08 and to 4,228.18, respectively, while the DAX in Frankfurt advanced 0.5 percent to 9,301.92. The FTSE 100, meanwhile, was up 0.2 percent to 6,571.68. Retail and luxury stocks were mostly up, with a few exceptions. Hugo Boss, which reported a 7 percent increase in operating profit for 2013, fell 1.7 percent to 93.10 euros, while Tod’s sank 2 percent to 96.80 euros and Moncler was down 1 percent to 13.56 euros.
Among the stocks gaining the most were Aeffe, 3 percent to 0.77 euros; Gemfields, 3.3 percent to 35 pence, and Bonmarche Holding, 1.2 percent to 2.87 euros.
The euro traded at $1.35 against the U.S. dollar, while the pound fetched $1.63 and the Swiss franc equaled $1.11.