By  on October 12, 2009

Retail stocks took a positive turn last week, rising 5.9 percent as the fashion world put a lackluster back-to-school performance behind it and headed into a holiday season in which it will face the easiest year-ago comparisons in memory.

The S&P Retail Index gained 21.61 points to close out the week at 387.82, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 4 percent, or 377.27 points, to 9,864.94.

In general, the corner-office set is feeling better about business, even if they’ve held back on job creation. The Conference Board reported Friday that its Measure of CEO Confidence rose to 63 in the third quarter from 55 in the second quarter. A reading of more than 50 indicates that roughly 100 business leaders from a variety of industries had more positive than negative responses when surveyed.

“[Chief executive officers] have grown considerably more optimistic in their short-term outlook,” said Lynn Franco, director of the group’s Consumer Research Center. “Although nearly 60 percent say they’ve scaled back capital spending plans since January, growing optimism over the past several quarters should translate into increased spending in 2010.”

Much depends on the strength of consumer spending, which is no longer supported by easy access to credit.

Markets around the world ended the week with strong increases, with Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 up 2.9 percent, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index ahead 5.5 percent, Paris’ CAC 40 increasing 4.1 percent and London’s FTSE 100 advancing 3.5 percent.

Of the 172 stocks tracked by WWD, 151 had gains, 14 declined and seven were unchanged last week.

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