Retail stocks registered a robust 2.6 percent gain last week, just missing a fifth consecutive winning day in the abbreviated Christmas Eve session.

This story first appeared in the December 28, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Declining 0.41 points, or 0.1 percent, the S&P Retail Index closed Thursday at 417.54. Although the drop broke a string of four-straight winning sessions, the index did manage to establish a new 52-week high of 419.26 earlier in the day.

Like the retail metric, the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite also hit new 52-week highs during Thursday’s session, and both wound up in positive territory, as did the Dow Jones Industrial Average. The Dow rose 53.66 points, or 0.5 percent, to 10,520.10, putting it ahead 1.9 percent for the week. The S&P 500 advanced 5.89 points, or 0.5 percent, to 1,126.48, and finished the week ahead 2.2 percent.

The Nasdaq was up 16.05 points, or 0.7 percent, to 2,285.69, representing a 3.4 percent gain for the week, the highest among the major indices.

While the Nasdaq’s gain since last Christmas Eve is the strongest of the major indices — 49.9 percent — its year-over-year mark falls below that of the S&P Retail Index, which will begin Monday trading 53.7 percent ahead of where it was on Dec. 24, 2008. The retail number is up 87.1 percent from its 52-week low of 223.21, hit on March 6.

Of 172 public firms in the apparel, beauty and retail sectors tracked by WWD, 135 were up for the week, 34 were down and three were unchanged. While Sears Holdings Corp. finished the three-plus-day period with a 10 percent gain, to $83.86, many of the strongest performers were apparel vendors, including Quiksilver Inc., up 13.1 percent to $13.13 after modifying its European credit arrangements; G-III Apparel Group Ltd., up 10.5 percent to $21.00; Lululemon Athletic Inc., up 10 percent to $30.24; Perry Ellis International Inc., up 9.4 percent to $15.07, and Kenneth Cole Productions Inc., up 8.6 percent to $9.24. Zale Corp., which saw its shares drop 36 percent two weeks ago after it disclosed an 18.6 percent drop in same-store sales in November, recouped more than half of what it had lost, rising 18.8 percent to $2.47 for the week.

Overseas markets fared well, too, with London’s FTSE 100 registering a 4 percent gain to 5,402.41, putting its year-on-year advance at 28.1 percent, and Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 up 3.9 percent to 10,536.9, 23.7 percent above a year ago. The CAC 40 in Paris was ahead 3.1 percent to 3,912.73, 25.6 percent above its year-ago mark, and the Hang Seng Index concluded at 21,517, up 1.6 percent for the week and 51.7 percent for the year.

While Thursday’s numbers benefited from news of lower unemployment claims and stronger durable goods orders, as well as a weaker dollar, they also derived a degree of strength from the so-called Santa Claus rally in which stocks tend to pick up steam in the days just before and just after Christmas.