By  on November 5, 2010

Retail stocks logged four winning sessions in five days and finished with a 4.1 percent advance last week.

The sterling performance by the S&P Retail Index — which outperformed the Dow Jones Industrial Average, S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite — elevated it to 485.60, within striking distance of the 52-week high of 499.41 reached on April 26. It also put its year-to-date gain at 18.1 percent, almost twice the 9.7 percent increase registered by the Dow.

Retail stocks haven’t closed above the 500 mark since July 25, 2007.

Of the 172 issues tracked by WWD, 139 had increases and 32 declines while one was unchanged.

Stocks on Friday benefited from a Labor Department report, which, as expected, showed the unemployment rate unchanged at 9.6 percent for the third straight month, but also noted a better-than-expected leap of 151,000 jobs last month. The private sector added 159,000 jobs in October, the fourth consecutive month of increases.

The news was positive for retail employment as well. Specialty stores added 7,700 positions to employ 1.4 million in October, and department stores expanded payrolls by 1,400 jobs to employ 1.49 million.

General merchandise stores, a category that includes department stores as well as discounters, added 4,400 jobs to employ 2.96 million.

Elsewhere in the apparel sector, manufacturers added 2,100 jobs to employ 165,600 last month while textile mills that manufacture apparel fabric added 200 jobs to employ 122,700. Textile product mills, which manufacture mostly home furnishing and industrial fabrics, eliminated 1,700 jobs to employ 120,400.

The employment report “gave a welcome boost to consumer spending power as the holiday season approaches,” said Nigel Gault, chief U.S. economist with IHS Global Insight. However, he cautioned that private employment gains earlier in the year weren’t sustained.

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