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Retail Shares Gain 0.3% on Wall Street

Sector inches ahead despite declines in the broader market.

Violence in the Ukraine restrained major indices in the U.S. and Europe today, but didn’t prevent U.S. retail stocks from rising in the wake of a surprisingly vigorous report on jobs from the Labor Department.

The S&P 500 Retailing Industry Group rose 0.3 percent to 865.89, putting its gain for the week at 1.3 percent and cutting its decline for the year to 7.9 percent.

However, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 declined 0.3 and 0.1 percent, to 16,512.89 and 1,881.14, respectively, trimming their gains for the week to 0.9 and 1 percent. The S&P is now up 1.8 percent in 2014 while the Dow, which closed at its highest level ever on Wednesday, sits 0.4 percent below its 2013 endpoint.

The Labor Department said early today that the economy added 288,000 jobs in April, the most in more than two years. The unemployment rate receded to 6.3 percent, its lowest level since September 2008, the month of the economy’s meltdown. Unemployment sat at 6.7 percent in March.

Apparel and accessories stores and discounters added jobs in April while department stores cut their payrolls.

The two largest gains among the fashion, retail and beauty stocks traded in the U.S. and tracked by WWD came from firms with strong reports on earnings.

The largest increase came from Gildan Activewear Inc., which exceeded analysts’ expectations with a 9.5 percent increase in its second-quarter earnings and saw shares respond with a 6.4 percent increase to $55.06.

The Estée Lauder Cos. Inc.’s shares moved ahead 4.8 percent to $75.62 after it reported a 19.2 percent increase in profits for its third quarter backed by an 11.3 percent increase in revenues. Both stocks established 52-week highs in midday trading.

Although still sitting at just about half of its 52-week high, shares of The Bon-Ton Stores Inc. were up 4.5 percent to $11.59.

In the WWD sample, advancing stocks outnumbered decliners by about a two-to-one margin. Among those in retreat were Cache Inc., off 5.5 percent to $2.56, and Joe’s Jeans Inc., off 2.8 percent to $1.03.

In Europe, the FTSE 100 in London was the only market to close with marginal gains.

The British index was up 0.2 percent to 6,822.42, while the CAC 40 was down 0.7 percent to 4,458.17 and the DAX in Frankfurt fell 0.5 percent to 9,556.02. The FTSE MIB was broadly flat, edging down just 0.01 percent to 21,782.00.

All four indices finished the week with gains, led by London’s 2.1 percent advance, and are ahead for the year, led by the 14.8 percent advance in Milan.

Retail and luxury stocks put on an uneven show as the week ended. The day’s biggest gainers included Safilo Group, up 4.9 percent to 17.21 euros, and French Connection, 10 percent to 88 pence.

Shares of Italian clothing manufacturer Aeffe jumped 14.3 percent to 1.16 euros following Italian press reports Thursday that private equity groups have shown an “interest” in taking a minority stake in the Italian fashion group.

Among the stocks that lost the most ground were Bonmarche Holding, down 2 percent to 2.88 pounds; Carrefour, 4.5 percent to 26.78 euros; Metro, 2.7 percent to 28.02 euros, and The Swatch Group, 3.6 percent to 102.20 Swiss francs.

The euro traded at $1.39 against the U.S. dollar while the pound fetched $1.69 and the Swiss franc equaled $1.14.