By  on September 20, 2010

Retail’s ready to go for the record. The S&P Retail Index gained for the ninth straight session Monday, rising 1.9 percent, or 8.26 points, to 446.96, as the market was buoyed by financial and home improvement stocks — as well as a growing belief the economy is not going to dip into a second recession. If retail stocks rise again today, the sector will tie the current record of 10 straight gains set in January 2004. The index, which tracks the overall retail market through a sampling of stocks, dates back to 2002, when it was recalibrated. Among Monday’s biggest retail winners were Zale Corp., up 12.4 percent to $2; Tiffany & Co., 2.7 percent to $46.18; Limited Brands Inc., 2.4 percent to $27.40, and J.C. Penney Co. Inc., 1.8 percent to $24.85. Analyst Betty Chen of Wedbush Securities attributed retail’s winning streak to “a combination of company fundamentals and macro headlines.” Chen said investors are hoping September sales improve versus August and that the back-to-school season ultimately points toward a stronger holiday season. “There’s also some optimism that there could be a party change in November when [Congressional] elections are held,” she said. “There could be a change in the current mind-set and thinking behind the stimulus, the potential tax cuts that could be extended or expanded.” And speaking of records, the National Bureau of Economic Research, the de facto umpire of business cycles, declared the recession that began in December 2007 ended in June 2009, making it the longest economic contraction since World War II. The call, though backward-looking, was still a comfort to investors, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 1.4 percent, or 145.77 points, to 10,753.62.Also on Monday, Deloitte LLP forecast 2.2 percent growth in U.S. holiday spending, lifting sales exclusive of automobiles and gasoline to $852 billion. The 2009 figure was $834 billion, according to the Commerce Department. “Sustained weakness in the housing and employment markets continues to restrict consumer cash flow,” said Carl Steidtmann, chief economist for Deloitte. As in previous years, e-commerce is expected to be a bright spot, and Deloitte expects nonstore sales to grow 15 percent. Nearly two-thirds of sales are expected to come from online activity and the remainder from catalogues and interactive TV. Stock markets around the world were in rally mode. The CAC 40 shot up 1.8 percent in Paris as the FTSE 100 advanced 1.7 percent in London and the Nikkei 225 gained 1.2 percent in Tokyo.

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