By  on July 28, 2009

Retail shares limped into the final week of July with a 1.1 percent decline Monday and lagged the market, which managed a modest rise and was buttressed by an uptick in new home sales.

The S&P Retail Index fell 3.75 points to 347.64, but is still within striking distance of its high for the year, 356.17, reached Thursday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average started off the week with an increase of 0.2 percent, or 15.27 points, to 9,108.51 — the third consecutive close above 9,000.

Retailers on the rise included The Talbots Inc., up 8 percent to $4.87; Dillard’s Inc., 5.1 percent to $9.66; Saks Inc., 4.4 percent to $4.99, and AnnTaylor Stores Corp., 3.9 percent to $10.89.

Shares of Coach Inc., which reports fourth-quarter results today, fell 3 percent to $28.43 after a downgrade from Lazard Capital Markets analyst Todd Slater.

Slater reduced his recommendation on the firm to “hold” from “buy,” noting the shares jumped 24 percent in two weeks.

“We would take some chips off the table into Tuesday’s earnings,” said Slater, adding it was still not certain that Coach’s business had stabilized.

The analyst said comparable-store sales at Coach’s outlet stores could be decelerating, even as the full-price stores have been “invigorated” by lower-priced goods.

Despite continued concerns about retail, there are tenuous hints the economy is perking up.

June sales of new homes increased 11 percent from May to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 384,000, according to the Commerce Department. But the housing market is still a long way from full recovery and the number of new homes sold last month marked a 21.3 percent decline from a year earlier.

On the downside, Dow component Verizon Communications Inc. said it would lay off 8,000 workers in the second half. The national unemployment rate is already at a 26-year high of 9.5 percent.

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