By and  on May 30, 2013

Retail stocks inched higher on Wall Street today as the government said consumer spending ramped up sharply in the first quarter.

The S&P 500 Retailing Industry Group gained 0.3 percent, or 2.26 points, to 789.94, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average 0.1percent, or 21.73 points, to 15,324.53.

The gainers included Michael Kors Holdings Ltd., up 2.7 percent to $65.68; Urban Outfitters Inc., 2.4 percent to $41.87, and Gap Inc., 1.6 percent to $39.99.

But the strongest stock in the fashion arenas was Express Inc., which shot up 12.8 percent to $21.20 after the retailer’s first-quarter earnings 38 cents a share topped analysts projections by 2 cents. “The direction the business is heading is positive,” said Michael Weiss, chairman and chief executive officer. “As we start the second quarter, momentum in the business is on the upswing, and conversion, which we often cite as a leading indicator of the business, has been building since relatively early in the first quarter.

Although many retailers have griped about an unusually cool spring, the macro reading of the economy suggests consumer spending is on the rise.

The Commerce Department said first-quarter gross domestic product rose at an annual rate of 2.4 percent in the first quarter — slightly slower than the 2.5 percent economists expected, but well ahead of the fourth quarter’s 0.4 percent rise.

Personal consumption expenditures shot up 3.4 percent in the first quarter from 1.8 percent in the fourth, showing that shoppers were out despite the weather.

In Europe, markets were the rebound after growth fears pressured stocks on Wednesday.

Frankfurt’s DAX rose 0.8 percent to 8,400.20 as Milan’s FTSE MIB gained 0.7 percent to 17,350.96, Paris’ CAC 40 increased 0.6 percent to 3,996.31 and London’s FTSE 100 grew 0.5 percent to 6,656.99.

The pound traded at $1.51 against the dollar, while the euro went for $1.31 and the Swiss franc fetched $1.07.

Retail and luxury stocks put on a mixed show, with the day’s biggest gainers including Asos.com, up 1.7 percent to 39.17 pounds; Safilo, 4 percent to 14.70 euros, and Marks & Spencer, 0.8 percent to 4.76 pounds.

Among the stocks losing ground were Yoox, down 2.4 percent to 15.67 euros; Burberry, 1.5 percent to 14.84 pounds, and Compagnie Financière Richemont, 1.4 percent to 86.65 Swiss francs.

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