By  on April 9, 2010

Strong March same-store sales reports pushed retail stocks up 1.3 percent Thursday, but the market overall was weighed down by an unexpected rise in jobless claims last week.

The S&P Retail Index advanced 6.13 points to 466.28 as the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.3 percent, or 29.55 points, to 10,927.07.

Initial claims for unemployment insurance rose by 18,000 last week to 460,000, according to a Labor Department report. Economists were looking for claims to fall to 435,000.

Analysts have pinned their hopes for the recovery on a turnaround in the job market, which posted its strongest gain in three years in March with a 162,000 jump in payrolls. About two-thirds of the U.S. economy is driven by consumer spending and shoppers who are worried about their jobs tend not to spend as much.

Among the retailers on the rise were Hot Topic Inc., up 11.1 percent to $7.84; Cato Corp., 8.7 percent to $23.67; The Talbots Inc., 5.4 percent to $14.19; Ross Stores Inc., 3.6 percent to $56.11; Gap Inc., 3.1 percent to $24.59, and Target Corp., 3 percent to $55.64. Talbots on Wednesday completed its merger with BPW Acquisition Corp. and the other firms were among those posting better-than-expected March sales results on Thursday.

Shares of Phillips-Van Heusen Corp. rose 2.3 percent to $61.31 as the company began the process of buying back existing debt to make way for $2.45 billion in new financing to fund its acquisition of Tommy Hilfiger.

PVH launched tender offers for $150 million in senior notes due 2011 and another $150 million of senior notes due 2013. Holders of the 2011 debt will receive a total consideration of $1,002.50 per $1,000 of face value. The 2013 debt will be paid off at $1,016.04 per $1,000 of principal. The tender offers expire May 4.

Earlier in the day, overseas markets declined as investors mulled over the uncertain status of relief for Greece’s sovereign debt. London’s FTSE 100 was off 0.9 percent to 5,712.70 while, in Paris, the CAC 40 pulled back 1.2 percent to 3,978.46. In Asia, Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 fell 1.1 percent to 11,168.20 while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index dropped 0.3 percent to 21,867.04.

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