By and  on February 1, 2010

Better-than-expected readings on fourth-quarter economic growth and January consumer sentiment drove up retail stocks as much as 1.6 percent Friday, but a late-day sell-off left the sector with a decline for the day.

The S&P Retail Index slipped 0.2 percent Friday to close at 397.48. Retail stocks rose 0.5 percent for the week, but fell 3.3 percent during the month.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.5 percent on Friday, and was off 1 percent for the week and 3.5 percent in January.

The Commerce Department said the U.S. economy grew at an annual rate of 5.7 percent in the fourth quarter, well ahead of the 4.8 percent economists forecast. And the Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers Index of consumer confidence hit a two-year high of 74.4 percent this month, ahead of the 73 percent Wall Street was expecting.

However, shoppers are expected to stay conservative in their buying habits.

Major overseas markets declined for both the week and the month, led by China’s SSE Composite Index, which dropped 4.5 percent and 8.8 percent, respectively, on concerns about the government’s efforts to rein in lending.

Among the 172 stocks monitored by WWD, 68 rose last week, seven were unchanged and 97 were down.

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