In another sign of how expectations have been altered by the recession, Wall Street essentially yawned through the bankruptcy of Chrysler on Thursday and retail shares rose 1.8 percent as the number of new unemployment claims fell last week.
The S&P Retail Index increased 5.93 points to 339.39. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose earlier in the day, but ended with a 0.2 percent, or 17.61-point, drop to 8,168.12. The Labor Department said 631,000 people registered for unemployment benefits last week, a drop of 14,000 from the preceding week and a lower figure than expected.
Among the retail gainers were Pacific Sunwear of California Inc., up 18.4 percent to $4.05; J. Crew Group, 9.5 percent to $17.21; J.C. Penney Co. Inc., 7.9 percent to $30.69; AnnTaylor Stores Corp., 7.1 percent to $7.39, and Saks Inc., 5.5 percent to $5.21.
Overall, retail shares have risen 52 percent from their March 6 low as investors recalculated the recession’s impact on stores, but first-quarter results due out this month are still expected to reveal steep top- and bottom-line decreases.
Already the impact is seen in first-quarter statements from vendors and real estate companies.
Taubman Centers Inc. said first-quarter sales by its mall tenants fell 13.5 percent from a year ago, though junior apparel, family shoes and food showed more moderate trends.
Shares of Taubman rose 4.3 percent Thursday to $23.82 after the developer said its funds from operations, a standard real estate yardstick, rose 3.3 percent to $56.6 million for the first quarter ended March 31. Quarterly results were released after the market closed Wednesday.
Another developer, Kimco Realty Corp., said Thursday its funds from operations fell 28.3 percent to $117.8 million for the first quarter ended March 31. Occupancy at Kimco’s shopping center portfolio fell to 92.6 percent from 93.8 percent largely because of the liquidations of Value City Department Stores and Circuit City.
Last month, General Growth Properties filed the largest real estate bankruptcy ever after borrowing heavily to build a portfolio of over 200 malls.