By  on January 14, 2009

Retail shares fell 1 percent Tuesday as investors looked for inspiration and found little beyond reports that banking giant Citigroup Inc. would unveil a major restructuring.

The Standard & Poor’s Retail Index shed 2.73 points to 274.64, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average slid 25.41 points to 8,448.56.

Traders will get another look at what the recession did to the holiday season when the Commerce Department releases its December sales report today.

Most specialty store stocks fell, including Charming Shoppes Inc., down 13.2 percent to $1.65; Charlotte Russe Holding Corp., 6 percent to $5.47; New York & Company Inc., 5.5 percent to $2.08, and Limited Brands Inc., 3.2 percent to $8.75.

Many broadline retailers also traded down. They included regional department store Gottschalks Inc., which is trying to avoid bankruptcy. Its shares fell 12.2 percent to 18 cents; Saks Inc. was down 3.2 percent to $3.60; Nordstrom Inc., 1.9 percent to $13.11; J.C. Penney Co. Inc., 1.8 percent to $20.30, and Target Corp., 0.5 percent to $34.94.

The Men’s Wearhouse Inc. managed to buck Tuesday’s negative trend, rising 2.8 percent to $12.67, but Jason Asaeda, analyst with Standard & Poor’s Equity Research, said the stock had moved too far and downgraded it to “sell” from “hold.”

“Weighing our guarded company outlook against the stock’s recent price increase, we now view [Men’s Wearhouse] shares as overvalued,” Asaeda said, noting that the firm’s U.S. tailored clothing sales were being driven by aggressive promotions and Canadian sales were tracking below expectations. The analyst has a target price of $11 on the stock.

Shares of dipped 0.9 percent to $51.45 despite a nod of approval from Moody’s Investors Service, which said it was considering a boost to the online retailer’s long-term debt rating after a strong holiday showing. The firm’s corporate family credit rating is just one notch into speculative territory at “Ba1.”

Debt downgrades have been more common than upgrades as firms struggle against weakened consumer spending and a shrinking economy. But Amazon has been outperforming other companies vying for the consumer’s dollar and attention.

Last month, the Web site said 2008 marked its best holiday ever, with more than 6.3 million items ordered Dec. 15 alone, which was the site’s peak day for the season.

“Amazon’s ability to achieve sizable sales growth with a reasonable level of profitability during a very challenging retail climate is strong evidence of the stability and success of Amazon’s business model,” said Maggie Taylor, Moody’s vice president and senior credit officer. The debt agency’s review also will look at the firm’s liquidity, capital structure and financial policies.

On the vendor side, Perry Ellis International Inc. rose 6.4 percent to $4.80. At a Cowen and Co. investment conference, the company said revenues from C&C California and Laundry by Shelli Segal tallied about $30 million last year, or half of the $60 million the company had been expecting. However, revenues from the two brands are projected to double every year for the next three to five years, said the firm. Perry Ellis bought the businesses from Liz Claiborne Inc. for $33.1 million last February.

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