By  on April 20, 2010

Retail stocks slipped modestly Monday despite hints the economic recovery is on the right track.

The S&P Retail Index dipped 0.1 percent, or 0.44 points, to 474.94 Monday, but is still trading at levels that prior to last week had not been seen since October 2007. The Dow Jones Industrial Average increased 0.7 percent, or 73.39 points, to end at 11,092.05, and the S&P 500 failed to break back through to 1,200, but closed up 0.5 percent, or 5.39 points, at 1,197.52.

Retail’s decliners included Chico’s FAS Inc., down 3.5 percent to $15.36; Abercrombie & Fitch Co., 3.3 percent to $47.09; The Men’s Wearhouse Inc., 3.3 percent to $24.92; AnnTaylor Stores Corp., 3.1 percent to $21.57, and Zale Corp., 2.8 percent to $3.15.

Shares of Liz Claiborne Inc. fell 2 cents, or 0.2 percent, to $8.53. After the markets closed, a regulatory filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission revealed that Tremblant Capital Group was the owner of 5.7 million shares of Claiborne stock, equaling a 6 percent stake in the firm. Companies holding 5 percent or more of a public firm are required to reveal those holdings to the SEC. No previous disclosures had been filed by Tremblant, indicating either that the stake was new or had exceeded 5 percent for the first time.

The decline among specialty stores belied a fresh reading from The Conference Board’s Leading Economic Index, which rose to 109.6 in March, a gain of 1.4 percent from February and a new all-time high. The index, a snapshot of 10 forward-looking indicators that has been kept since 1959, advanced 0.4 percent in February and 0.6 percent in January.

“The indicators point to a slow recovery that should continue over the next few months,” said Ken Goldstein, an economist at the research group. “Strength of demand remains the big question going forward. Improvement in employment and income will be the key factors in whether consumers push the recovery on a stronger path.”

U.S. markets were also supported by Citigroup Inc., which posted a $4.43 billion first-quarter profit. And investors cautiously warmed to Goldman Sachs Group Inc. after the Securities and Exchange Commission charged the bank Friday with fraud related to its dealings in the subprime mortgage market.

The shadow of the Goldman case hung over Asian markets, where traders pushed the Hang Seng Index down 2.1 percent to 21,405.17 in Hong Kong and the Nikkei 225 down 1.7 percent to 10,908.77 in Tokyo.

Although European markets were off, general sentiment improved as trading moved westward. The CAC 40 slipped 0.4 percent to 3,970.47 in Paris and the FTSE 100 dipped 0.3 percent to 5,727.91 in London.

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