By  on April 30, 2010

U.S. retail stocks bounced back with a 1.6 percent gain after two days of losses.

The S&P Retail Index added 7.81 points to end Thursday’s session at 486.14, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average added 122.05 points, or 1.1 percent, and the S&P 500 retook the 1,200 level with a 15.42-point, or 1.3 percent, advance to 1,206.78.

Stocks were aided by a drop in initial claims for unemployment benefits last week to 448,000. Unemployment stands at 9.7 percent nationally, with the next reading on its status due from the government on May 7.

Even more than U.S. equities, European markets breathed easier on Thursday after words of assurance from European leaders about the increasingly multinational Greek sovereign debt crisis. As U.S. markets made the transition to afternoon trading, the CAC 40 in Paris closed up 1.4 percent to 3,840.62, the DAX was up 1 percent to 6,144.91 in Frankfurt and the FTSE 100 ended ahead 0.6 percent at 5,617.84. Asian markets, reacting to the prior day’s uncertainty in Europe as well as the Wednesday sell-off in the U.S., were off, with the Nikkei 225 in Tokyo receding 2.6 percent to 10,924.79.

One element of the U.S. credit crisis appeared closer to resolution Thursday as General Growth Properties received Manhattan bankruptcy court confirmation of its plans to restructure its Fashion Show and Phase II Mall Subsidiary Palazzo loans. The Fashion Show loan is secured by the Fashion Show Mall and the Palazzo loan is secured by the Las Vegas Shoppes’ at the Palazzo; both are in Las Vegas. The confirmation means that all but one of GGP’s 108 secured mortgage loans have been reset.

Meanwhile, financial sources said Simon Property Group’s proposal to recapitalize GGP now will include a lower voting stake in GGP to less than 20 percent. GGP will have to decide in the next few days whether it prefers SPG’s offer or the competing stalking horse proposal led by Brookfield Asset Management before the scheduled May 4 court hearing on the matter.

In a move that will put about 650 of its employees under one roof, Tiffany & Co. said Thursday it had signed a lease for space at 200 Fifth Avenue in New York that will allow the company to consolidate three locations into one and generate about $125 million in savings over the 16-year term of the lease. Tiffany will seek to sublease the three properties it’s vacating — at 600 Madison Avenue, 555 Madison Avenue and 680 Fifth Avenue — but expects to incur costs of $20 million in the current fiscal year and $35 million in fiscal 2012 to cover lease obligations and other costs related to the relocation.

Shares of Tiffany added 47 cents, or 1 percent, to close at $49.95.

Also, shares of Sears Holdings Corp. rose $4.69, or 3.9 percent, to $123.90, and hit a 52-week high of $124.96 in intraday trading, after Moody’s Investors Service changed its outlook on the firm’s long-term debt to positive from stable. Moody’s noted prospects for improved performance by the Sears Canada and Kmart operations. Strength in hard goods, the ratings watchdog noted, “offsets the struggling softlines business.”

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