By  on September 11, 2009

Retail stocks inched up 0.6 percent Thursday and, along with the broader market, hit a new high for the year as the number of initial jobless claims fell last week.

The S&P Retail Index rose 2.17 points to 375.48, the best close so far this year. The Dow Jones Industrial Average increased 0.8 percent, or 80.26 points, to 9,627.48.

Investors were heartened by a Labor Department report showing a seasonally adjusted decline of 26,000 in the number of people applying for unemployment insurance.

Among the retailers on the upswing was Target Corp, which advanced 1.1 percent to $48.17. In a move that requires the approval of shareholders holding 75 percent of the company’s stock at the next annual meeting, Target’s board voted to end its three-tiered structure and have its 12 members elected annually instead of every three years.

“Target has a long history of strong corporate governance and responsiveness to shareholders,” said Jim Johnson, the discounter’s lead outside director. “As a result of shareholder input and the board’s ongoing review of its governance practices, the board believes that these changes are in the best interest of Target and its shareholders.”

In May, Target fended off attempts by activist investor William Ackman, at a cost of about $10 million, to shake up the board and install five new directors, including himself. The hedge fund manager, who still holds 4.4 percent of the firm’s outstanding shares, has lobbied Target and its investors to spin off the real estate under the company’s stores and to improve corporate governance.

Also on the rise was Liz Claiborne Inc., which shot up 11.4 percent to $5.07.

Chief executive officer William L. McComb reassured investors this week that the company had more than sufficient liquidity and that it had hired Alvarez & Marsal for only a short-term review of its cash management processes.

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