By and  on May 31, 2013

U.S. retail stocks avoided most — but not all — of the damage Friday as markets on both sides of the Atlantic ended a strong month on a decidedly down note.

The S&P Retailing Industry Group was off 0.4 percent to 786.92 as the Dow Jones Industrial Average suffered its steepest decline since the 265.86-point descent of April 15 with a drop of 208.96 points, or 1.4 percent, to close at 15,115.57. The retail number is off since the index hit its all-time high of 804.05 on May 21.

In the absence of significant news in the U.S., investors reacted to word that unemployment in the euro zone in April reached a new high of 12.2 percent, up from 12.1 percent in March.

The strongest gain among U.S. retail equities came from Guess Inc., which rose 8.3 percent to $31.78 after disclosing late Thursday that first-quarter earnings surpassed previous guidance and Wall Street estimates. Also prominent among a handful of U.S. gainers was Zale Corp., up 3.4 percent to $7.72 after hitting a 52-week high of $8.12 in midday trading. Express Inc. rose 2.8 percent to $21.80.

Among stocks in decline were Michael Kors Holdings Ltd., off 4.4 percent to $62.82, after earnings-driven gains earlier in the week, and beauty titans The Procter & Gamble Co. and The Estée Lauder Cos., down 3 percent and 2.6 percent, respectively, to $76.76 and $67.78.

Depressed by the continuing weak jobs picture, the main European indexes were in decline. Paris’ CAC 40 dropped 1.2 percent to 3,948.59, London’s FTSE 10 slipped 1.1 percent to 6,583.09, the FTSE MIB in Milan lost 0.8 percent to 17,214.08, and the DAX in Frankfurt shrank 0.6 percent to 8,348.84.

The pound was traded at $1.51 against the dollar and the euro at $1.31.

Retail and luxury stocks were also predominantly in the red, with those stocks losing the most ground including Inditex, 2.5 percent to 95.82 percent; L’Oréal, 2.4 percent to 130.35 euros; and Burberry, 2 percent to 14.53 pounds.

Among the stocks making gains were Mulberry, up 1.9 percent to 11.04 pounds, and Yoox, 1.8 percent to 15.95 euros.

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