Positive reactions to fourth-quarter earnings reports from Macy’s Inc. and The Home Depot Inc. sent retail stocks higher even as the broader market declined slightly.

The S&P 500 Retailing Industry Group enjoyed its second strongest gain of the year, rising 1.9 percent to 920.19. With the advance, the index has more days of gains than declines — 19 versus 18 — for the first time in 2014. The close was just slightly below the 920.87 arrived at on Jan. 14.

The major indices came close but were unable to break even for the day. The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished down 0.2 percent at 16,179.66 and the S&P 500 dropped 0.1 percent to 1,845.12.

Shares of Macy’s Inc. advanced 6 percent to $56.25 after its fourth-quarter profits exceeded analysts’ consensus expectations even as sales lagged behind them after a difficult January. Home Depot’s stock was up 4 percent to $80.98 on an earnings “beat” also tempered by a small revenue “miss.”

Fifth & Pacific Cos. Inc. shares were up 12 percent to $35.24 as its sales and profits increased in the fourth quarter while Dillard’s Inc. was up 7.9 percent to $90.17 following its report late Monday of declines in earnings, margins and sales.

The upward lift for retailers came despite The Conference Board’s report of a small decline in consumer confidence in February after modest improvements in both January and December. Other beneficiaries included Joe’s Jeans Inc., up 4.3 percent to $1.46; Bebe Stores Inc., up 4.3 percent to $5.37, and American Apparel, up 3.9 percent to 73 cents.

Among fashion, retail and beauty stocks traded by WWD, the largest decline by far was suffered by Perry Ellis International Inc., which surrendered 17.5 percent to close at $12.93 following its report late Monday of preliminary fourth-quarter results that fell well short of earlier guidance. Perry Ellis blamed weak traffic among consumers and lower replenishment activity among its retail accounts for the shortfall, which had also caused some January orders to be pushed back to later months.

Other declines hit The Wet Seal Inc., off 3.3 percent to $1.75, and Hudson’s Bay Co., down 2.7 percent to $16.04.

European stock markets edged down slightly at the close of trading, with the FTSE 100 in London lagging the most.

The British market sank 0.5 percent to 6,830.50, while the FTSE MIB in Milan was down 0.2 percent to 20,435.82. The DAX in Frankfurt and the CAC 40 in Paris were both down 0.1 percent to 9,699.35 and to 4,414.55 respectively.

Retail and luxury stocks were mostly down, with the exception of L’Oréal, which was up 1.6 percent to 125.20 euros; Marks & Spencer Group, 1.1 percent to 5.11 pounds, and French Connection Group, 3 percent to 57 pence.

Among the stocks that lost the most ground was Moncler, which was down 11 percent to 13.20 euros after the firm’s double-digit profit and sales gains only slightly beat analysts’ expectations for the fiscal year.
Brunello Cucinelli was down 1.4 percent to 20.47 euros while LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton and Tod’s both declined 1 percent to 137.35 euros and to 98.85 euros, respectively.

The euro traded at $1.37 versus the U.S. dollar while the pound fetched $1.66 and the Swiss franc equaled $1.13.

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