By  on August 25, 2009

Retail stocks fell 1.6 percent Monday, giving back some of Friday’s gains as investors looked ahead to several fresh readings on the consumer this week. The S&P Retail Index slid 5.69 points to 360.66. Retail stocks shot ahead 2.2 percent Friday after Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke said economic activity seemed to be stabilizing and that “the prospects for a return to growth in the near term appear good.” Much still depends on consumers, who make up two-thirds of the economy and have yet to find solid footing with continued weakness in the job market. The broader stock market began Monday on the upswing as traders took their cue from investors in Europe and Asia, but the rally began to fail in the afternoon and the Dow Jones Industrial Average ended nearly flat, with a 3.32-point gain to 9,509.28. Internationally, the Nikkei 225 in Tokyo rose 3.4 percent and the Hang Seng Index in Hong Kong increased 1.7 percent prior to the CAC 40’s 1 percent advance in Paris and the FTSE 100’s 0.9 percent gain in London. Even if consumers are still relatively down in the dumps, sentiment among economists seems to be improving. IHS Global Insight economists Nariman Behravesh and Sara Johnson said Monday, “The longest and deepest recession of the postwar era has ended, and a new global expansion is beginning in the third quarter.” The pair said global gross domestic product would fall 2.3 percent this year and then rise 2.4 percent in 2010 and 3.4 percent in 2011. But shoppers have to do their part for these predictions to pan out. “A sustained, robust global recovery depends on renewed growth in consumer spending and capital investment,” Behravesh and Johnson said. “The coming expansion will be restrained by cautious consumers in the United States and Europe, who are saving to rebuild depleted assets and reduce debt burdens. China, India, Brazil and other emerging markets will fill some, but not all, of the void.” For those reading the economic tea leaves, this will be a busy week with The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index out today and reports on new home sales, GDP and personal income, consumption and prices due later this week. On average, economists predict the still-depressed confidence index will have inched up to 47.6 this month from 46.6 last month. Among the retail decliners Monday were Sears Holdings Corp., down 3.2 percent to $63.94; American Eagle Outfitters Inc., 2.8 percent to $14.26; Charming Shoppes Inc., 2.5 percent to $5.57; Tween Brands Inc., 2.1 percent to $7.33, and Target Corp., 1.1 percent to $45.17. Topping the list of 174 stocks tracked by WWD was Charlotte Russe Holding Inc., which climbed 25.9 percent to $17.36 after the company agreed to be bought out by private equity firm Advent International Corp.

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