Retail Stocks Edge Higher

Moody’s sees stronger holiday earnings for chains.

Retail stocks picked up momentum today as the market sagged and hope emerged that, even though holiday sales growth is projected to slow, earnings could perk up.

The S&P 500 Retailing Industry Group rose 0.5 percent, or 3.29 points, to 659.22, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average declined 0.1 percent, or 7.45 points, to 12,788.51.

The day’s gainers included G-III Apparel Group Ltd., up 7.6 percent to $38.39; Tumi Holdings Inc., 3.8 percent to $22.26; J.C. Penney Co. Inc., 2.9 percent to $17.24; Amazon.com Inc., 1.8 percent to
$233.78; Coach Inc., 1.5 percent to $57.43, and Gap Inc., 1.4 percent to $34.90.

Retailers, and investors, are looking ahead to Black Friday sales and what the early read means for the holiday season.

Sales projections so far are kind of  ‘meh,’ with most expecting growth to slow versus last year’s holiday season. However, a report today from Moody’s Investor’s Service debt analyst Margaret Taylor said retailers could boost profits anyway.

“Although holiday sales growth will be more muted this year, earnings growth will be slightly stronger, tracking our full-year estimate of about 3.5 percent to 4.5 percent, compared with 2.7 percent in 2011,” Taylor said.

The analyst said apparel retailers would benefit from lower cotton costs and easy comparisons versus a year earlier.

Europe continues to follow the ebb and flow of its fiscal crisis. Markets in the region rose today amid speculation that finance ministers would approve the next tranche of bailout cash for Greece.

In Brussels, European finance ministers were discussing ways to fill a $19.2 billion gap in Greece’s public accounts. Options under consideration include recycling European Central Bank profits on Greek bonds, charging Greece lower interest rates and extending repayment deadlines.

The FTSE 100 in London was up 0.9 percent to 5,748.10, while the CAC 40 in Paris and the DAX in Frankfurt were both up 0.7 percent, to 3,462.06 and 7,172.99, respectively. The FTSE MIB Milan bucked the trend, declining by 0.3 percent to 15,269.99.

Retail and luxury stocks were predominantly up, with the day’s biggest increases seen at Burberry, up 2.7 percent to 12.47 pounds; Brunello Cucinelli and Yoox, both up 2.1 percent, to 13.02 euros and 11.45 euros, respectively; Compagnie Financière Richemont, 1.9 percent to 68.50 Swiss francs, and PPR, up 1.1 percent to 137.75 euros.

Going against this trend was Mulberry, down 0.5 percent to 10.65 pounds, and Ferragamo, which dipped 0.3 percent to 16.55 euros.

The pound traded at $1.59 versus the dollar, the euro was worth $1.28 and the Swiss franc exchanged at $1.06.