By and  on July 7, 2010

A strong performance by financial firms helped pull the Dow Jones Industrial Average back above 10,000 Wednesday on a nearly 275-point gain, and retail stocks followed suit with a 2.4 percent advance of their own.

The S&P Retail Index finished the day at 393.05, up 9.38 points, for its biggest percentage gain since a 3 percent advance on June 10 and its fourth best performance of the year. The retail barometer, which enjoyed nearly an uninterrupted upward trajectory throughout the afternoon, fell below 400 on June 29 and has not regained that mark since. It peaked at 499.91 on April 26.

The Dow, which finished ahead 2.8 percent at 10,018.28, slipped below 10,000 on June 29 and, even in intraday trading, hadn’t risen above it. The Dow’s gain was its biggest since a 2.9 percent advance on May 27 and the third highest of the year.

While the markets in general and retail stocks in particular have been retreating in recent months, weighed down by investors attempting to reconcile their expectations for a more vigorous recovery with the realities of stubbornly high unemployment and lackluster consumer spending, they have sparked to life at unexpected moments. The rally by financial stocks on Wednesday helped retail shares post only their sixth gain of more than 2 percent this year, and all but one of these has come since the sector’s high-water mark on April 26.

Yet retail shares have fallen in five of the past seven trading sessions, including a 3.8 percent drop on June 29.

The recent decline in retail shares was sufficient to put a crimp in spending by the affluent last month, according to data released by SpendingPulse, an information service provided by MasterCard Advisors that estimates U.S. retail sales made with cash, checks and credit cards.

Luxury retailers in June saw their sales fall 3.9 percent versus June 2009, the first decline since November. Upscale spending is “usually tied to capital markets,” said Mike Berry, director of industry research at SpendingPulse. “This is not surprising.”

Meanwhile, department store sales edged up 1.3 percent, their first increase in two years despite a flat February.

“They have been performing so poorly for so long,” Berry said, indicating the new numbers might suggest the sector has “finally hit bottom.”

Specialty apparel retailers were up 3.3 percent last month, with women’s apparel down 1.6 percent while family, children’s and men’s apparel registered improvements of 7.9 percent, 7.8 percent and 0.3 percent.

Earlier in the day, European markets were up, led by the 1.8 percent increase on Paris’ CAC 400 to 3,483.44, while Asian markets were mixed, with the Nikkei 225 down 0.6 percent to 9,279.65 in Tokyo.

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