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Retail Stocks Tumble Thursday

Investors drove down retail stocks 2.3 percent yesterday amid a rise in U.S. weekly jobless claims and worries about the economy in Europe.

Investors pulled back strongly Thursday, driving down retail stocks 2.3 percent amid an unexpected rise in U.S. weekly jobless claims and worries over sovereign debt in Europe.

This story first appeared in the February 5, 2010 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The S&P Retail Index fell 9.16 points to 392.19 as the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 2.6 percent, or 268.37 points, to 10,002.18. The Dow briefly traded below the 10,000 mark for the first time since November and suffered its worst point decline since April 20.

“There’s a pull back from the big run-up last year,” said Andrew Fitzpatrick, director of investments at Hinsdale Associates. “There is a natural correction that needed to take place, so that’s part of what’s happening. The market’s grabbing any negative news or indication of weakness and using that to sell off.”

The Dow gained 67 percent from last year’s March low to its recent peak 10,767.15 on Jan. 14. Blue-chip stocks are now down 7.1 percent from that high, and Fitzpatrick said they could fall a total of 10 or 12 percent.

“The second year of a recovery is a slower one typically, but it’s one that does have pullbacks in the 10 percent range, and I think you can expect two or three of these over the course of this year,” he said.

Initial claims for unemployment insurance rose by 8,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 480,000, according to a Labor Department report tracking week-to-week trends. Economists had anticipated looking for jobless claims to fall to 455,000.

Investors also fretted over the sovereign debt of budget-constrained Greece, as well as Portugal and Spain.

Fashion stocks that declined included The Talbots Inc., down 6.7 percent to $11.03; Dillard’s Inc., 6.1 percent to $16.22; Dollar General Corp., 5.8 percent to $22.47; Guess Inc., 5.5 percent to $38.42; Saks Inc., 4.5 percent to $6.44, and Kohl’s Corp., 4 percent to $50.07.

Although shares of Liz Claiborne Inc. slid 5.1 percent to $5.20 Thursday, a regulatory filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission revealed that Whitebox Advisors, a Minneapolis-based hedge fund run by investor Andrew Redleaf, had acquired 9.1 million shares of the company, or 8.7 percent of those outstanding, as of Dec. 31. Last year, Perry Capital scooped up 9.7 percent of the company’s stock. Calls to Whitebox’s offices weren’t answered.

Investors in the European markets pushed the CAC 40 down 2.8 percent to 3,689.25 in Paris and the FTSE 100 down 2.2 percent to 5,139.31 in London.