By and  on October 23, 2009

Retail stocks rebounded from two days of losses and rose 1.7 percent Thursday as investors saw better times ahead in corporate earnings and leading economic indicators.

The S&P Retail Index advanced 6.40 points to 389.68. J. Crew Group Inc. led all stocks tracked by WWD with a 15.2 percent increase in its shares, to $43.49, after it raised its third-quarter guidance. Also gaining strongly for the day were Charming Shoppes Inc., up 8 percent to $5.80; Saks Inc., 6.8 percent to $6.57, and Aéropostale Inc., 5.2 percent to $43.19.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average broke back through 10,000, rising 1.3 percent, or 131.95 points, to 10,081.31 after components 3M Co., The Travelers Co. and McDonald’s Corp. posted a combined $3.15 billion in third-quarter profits.

Shares of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., another Dow component stock, dipped 0.3 percent to $50.48 as the company wrapped up a two-day investor meeting with a reiteration of its emphasis on low prices for the holidays, with new price reductions unveiled every week.

Growth was also on the mind of chief executive officer Mike Duke, who said the retailer had room to expand in the U.S., especially in metropolitan areas. “We will introduce new innovative formats here in the U.S.,” Duke said.

Capital expenditures for Wal-Mart U.S. are expected to range from $6.6 billion to $6.8 billion for 2010, and $7 billion to $8 billion for 2011. Project Impact, Wal-Mart’s store renovation program, has helped attract and retain new customers. “We won’t take our foot off the accelerator,” Duke said. “We expect to have over 70 percent of our store base completed by the end of fiscal 2011.”

The international division is expected to open the most stores, with 23 and 25 slated for 2010 and 2011, respectively, and Brazil and China key growth areas. In apparel, Linda Heffner, executive vice president and chief merchandising officer, said, “We’ve improved our offering with recognizable department store brands.”

Also on Thursday, The Conference Board said its Leading Economic Index rose 1 percent in September, following a 0.4 percent gain in August and a 1 percent jump in July. The unbroken string of increases since April marks the index’s quickest six-month growth rate since 1983.

“Except for average workweek and building permits, all the leading indicators contributed positively to the index this month,” said Ataman Ozyildirim, economist at the research group.

But Ozyildirim said the continued downturn in the job market is holding back the coincident economic index, which measures current conditions and was unchanged for September.

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