By and  on February 22, 2010

Retail stocks scored their sixth straight advance on Friday, putting them ahead 3.5 percent for the week and 0.6 percent for the year.

The S&P Retail Index climbed 0.85 points, or 0.2 percent, Friday to close the week at 413.61, locking in a gain for the year, which has so far eluded the three major equity indices. A 9.45 point gain on Friday put the Dow Jones Industrial Average at 10,402.35, up 3 percent for the week, but down 0.3 percent for the year. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite, up 3.1 percent and 2.8 percent for the week, respectively, remain 0.3 percent and 0.5 percent below their Dec. 31 levels.

More than four in five stocks monitored by WWD were up for the week. Of the 172 companies tracked, 142 had increases, 25 had decreases and five were unchanged.

Overseas last week, the FTSE 100, CAC 40 and Nikkei 225 rose 4.2 percent, 4.7 percent and 0.3 percent, respectively, while the Hang Seng Index dropped 1.9 percent and the SSE Composite Index was unchanged.

In Washington Friday, the Labor Department said in its Consumer Price Index that retail apparel prices declined 0.1 percent in January compared with December, but rose 1.7 percent from a year ago.

Women’s apparel prices increased 0.2 percent and were up 2.8 percent year-over-year. Men’s apparel prices rose 0.7 percent and declined 0.2 percent in 12-month comparisons.

Driven by rising energy costs, the overall CPI increased a less-than-expected 0.2 percent in January and was up 2.6 percent compared with a year earlier.

The so-called core prices, which exclude the volatile food and energy sectors, dropped for the first time since 1982. Core prices declined 0.1 percent month-to-month, but increased 1.6 percent from January 2009.

“Inflation is nonexistent,” said Brian Bethune, chief U.S. economist for IHS Global Insight, addressing concerns that the stimulus package and the Fed’s lid on interest rates could lead to high prices.

Specific categories within the women’s and men’s apparel spheres showed mixed pricing trends.

“There are certain segments of the apparel market that possess pricing power,” said John Lonski, chief economist for Moody’s Investors Service. But “the pace of consumer spending, while improved, remains very subdued. There is still reason to believe increases in consumer spending are tentative.”

Retail prices for women’s outerwear rose 0.5 percent month-to-month and 4.9 percent compared with a year earlier. Women’s suits and separates increased 0.8 percent and 2 percent compared with January 2009. The broad women’s underwear, nightwear, sportswear and accessories category increased 0.1 percent and 6.1 percent compared with a year earlier. Dresses declined 3.9 percent and 3.7 percent year-to-year.

Men’s suits, sport coats and outerwear prices fell 0.6 percent and 1.2 percent in 12-month comparisons. Men’s furnishings increased 2.1 percent and 3.4 percent year-to-year. Retail prices for men’s shirts and sweaters rose 0.8 percent, but declined 0.4 percent compared with January 2009. Men’s pants and shorts prices were flat and fell 2.8 percent compared with a year ago.

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