By and  on July 26, 2010

Stocks perked up last week, as stronger second-quarter earnings from VF Corp. and other big corporations overshadowed reports of a still-weak housing market and confirmation from Federal Reserve chairman Ben S. Bernanke that the economic outlook remained “unusually uncertain.”

The S&P Retail Index rose 0.9 percent, or 3.55 points, to 408.17 on Friday, capping a 4.5 percent gain for the week. Fashion’s gainers on Friday included The Bon-Ton Stores Inc., up 10.4 percent to $8.82; Cache Inc., 9.2 percent to $5.53; Guess Inc., 5.1 percent to $37.66; Jones Apparel Group Inc., 4.5 percent to $16.26; Liz Claiborne Inc., 3.8 percent to $4.98; Aéropostale Inc., 3.3 percent to $30.88, and VF Corp., 1.8 percent to $79.78.

Of the 172 stocks tracked by WWD, 156 rose last week, while four held steady and 12 declined.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 1 percent, or 102.32 points, to 10,424.62 for the day and advanced 3.2 percent for the week.

Equities gained around the world last week, with the SSE Composite Index in Shanghai, the CAC 40 in Paris and FTSE 100 in London all rising at least 3 percent. The Hang Seng Index in Hong Kong increased 2.8 percent, and the DAX in Frankfurt was up 2.1 percent. The Nikkei 225 in Tokyo was the laggard among major markets with a 0.2 percent gain.

This week, investors get a look at second-quarter gross domestic product growth, a fresh reading on new home sales and two takes on consumer confidence.

IHS Global Insight U.S. economists Brian Bethune and Nigel Gault expect improvement in both The Conference Board’s reading on consumer sentiment Tuesday and Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan’s Surveys of Consumers, due out Friday.

While the improvement in the stock market and better headlines on the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico are expected to have helped confidence, shoppers are still uneasy.

“Consumer confidence has been dramatically shaken in the past couple of months, and it may take some time to recover to more reasonable levels,” said Bethune and Gault.

Markets will also get a first look at second-quarter GDP Friday. The U.S. economy grew at an annual rate of 2.7 percent in the first quarter, and IHS expects that it expanded by 3 percent in the second quarter, though other economists are looking for a slowdown in growth.

“The economy entered the second quarter with plenty of momentum, but exited with very little,” said Bethune and Gault. “We expect that growth in the third quarter will be slower than in the second.”

• Volcom Agrees to Buy Licensee: Volcom Inc. said Friday that it had signed an agreement to acquire Australian licensee Volcom Australia for undisclosed terms. The company expects the purchase to close during the third quarter and have no effect on earnings for the current fiscal year. “This is one of the most influential territories for Volcom,” said Richard Woolcott, chairman and chief executive officer of the Costa Mesa, Calif.-based marketer of surf-and-skate-related apparel, “and this move represents a great opportunity for us to continue to build brand strength and market share.”

Volcom, a presence in Australia since 1993, has licensees in Brazil, Indonesia, South Africa and Argentina. The company is scheduled to report second-quarter financial results on Thursday. At the end of the first quarter, on March 31, the company had cash and cash equivalents of $64 million on its books in addition to $45 million in short-term investments. On Friday, Volcom shares rose 66 cents, or 3.5 percent, to close at $19.37.

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