Consumer confidence is on the rise, according to the Conference Board’s monthly survey, but any boost that news might have given stock markets was muted. Thank the impact of Hurricane Gustav’s 90-mile-an-hour sustained winds and concerns that the storm might disrupt oil production and refinement in the Gulf of Mexico. Traders pushed the Dow Jones Industrial Average up just 0.2 percent, or 26.62 points, to 11,412.87 as the S&P 500 rose 0.4 percent, or 4.67 points, to 1,271.51. Hurricanes and other relatively short-term drivers aside, stock markets might well perk up if confidence among average Americans continues its upward trajectory, given that consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of the overall economy. For now, it’s an open question, but retail shares did outperform the overall market Tuesday, with investors pushing the S&P Retail Index up 0.7 percent, or 2.58 points, to 390.76. One of the best performers was Talbots, which rose 7.6 percent and recovered most of the ground lost on Monday. Other retailers picking up steam were Dillard’s, Saks, Target, Mothers Work and Pacific Sunwear. J. Crew’s shares were also up, but investors could reverse direction today as they digest the firm’s 12.2 percent drop in second-quarter earnings, reported Tuesday.
* Editor’s note: European stocks are quoted in the currency of their principal exchanges. Shares on the London Stock Exchange are quoted in pence, Richemont and The Swatch Group are quoted in Swiss francs and Hennes & Mauritz is quoted in Swedish kronor. All other European stocks are in euros.