Retail stocks gained in a relatively stagnant day on Wall Street.
The S&P Retail Index was up 0.8 percent, or 5.02 points, to 649.52 as trading settled. By comparison, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose just 0.03 percent, or 4.49 points, to 13,107.48.
Fashion’s strongest performer was Jos. A. Bank Clothiers Inc., which rose 14 percent to $47.44 after the 572-door chain beat second-quarter profit estimates and said it will grow to as many as 800 doors. Also rising was J.C. Penney Co. Inc., which gained 3.7 percent to $26.23. In a video on the company’s Web site, chief executive officer Ron Johnson gave an early look at the Liz Claiborne, Izod and jcp shops-in-shop that will bow in nearly 700 of the firm’s 1,000 doors next week. There were also some modestly encouraging signs on the economy.
The U.S. Commerce Department raised its estimate of second-quarter GDP growth to 1.7 percent from 1.5 percent. While that means the economy is the better than thought, it still marks a slowdown from 2 percent growth in the first quarter.
And retail activity has been generally increasing, according to Beige Book, an anecdotal reading of the economy across the Federal Reserve’s 12 districts released Wednesday.
Most of the districts reported retail increases in July and early August, versus the preceeding six weeks.
“New York and San Francisco noted strengthening sales compared with a softer May and June, although in San Francisco’s case, the rise was only ‘a bit further,’” the Beige Book said. “Philadelphia, Richmond, Minneapolis and Kansas City reported stronger retail sales, while Cleveland, Chicago, St. Louis, and Dallas all said that sales were up ‘slightly.’”
Retail contacts in the Boston district reported mixed sales and a slowdown was seen in the Atlanta region.
Investors in both the U.S. and Europe are looking ahead to a meeting of central bankers in Jackson Hole, Wyo., Friday, where some are hoping Fed chairman Ben S. Bernanke will announce further stimulus measures for the U.S. economy.
The FTSE 100 in London finished down 0.6 percent to 5,743.53, while the CAC 40 in Paris closed down 0.5 percent to 3,413.89 and the FTSE MIB in Milan fell 0.3 percent to 14,943.57. The DAX in Frankfurt managed to edge up, climbing just 0.1 percent to 7,010.57.
Most fashion, luxury and retail had a lackluster day. The decliners included Mulberry, down 4.7 percent to 13.10 pounds, and Brunello Cucinelli, which dropped 6 percent to 13.73 euros after it reported a 13.6 percent fall in first-half net profits Tuesday. L’Oreal fell 4.4 percent to 96.58 euros, after the 10.8 percent rise in its first-half net profits that the beauty firm reported Tuesday failed to meet some analysts’ estimates.
The few gainers included Asos.com, up 2.4 percent to 17.66 pounds; French Connection, which gained 0.6 percent to 21 pence, and Safilo Group, up 2.2 percent to 6.25 euros. The euro traded at $1.25 Wednesday, while the pound went for $1.58.