Continuing doubts about recent retail sales trends and first-quarter earnings that will arrive later this month pressured retail stocks down for the third straight day.

The S&P 500 Retailing Industry Group fell 5.85 points, or 0.7 percent, to 837.25, compounding losses in Tuesday’s 2.3 percent slide.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 returned to positive territory after declines on Tuesday, however. The Dow moved ahead 0.7 percent to 16,518.54 while the S&P 500 gained 0.6 percent to end the day at 1,878.21. The Nasdaq retreated 0.3 percent to 4,067.67 on a day that saw small-cap stocks pull back.

Leading those with gains in the retail sector was J.C. Penney Co. Inc., up 7.8 percent to $8.72, followed by Sears Holdings Corp., which advanced 2.9 percent to $41.74 on the day after an annual meeting in which Edward Lampert, chairman and chief executive officer, discussed efforts to transform the company, including cutting back on the size of apparel assortments at Sears stores.

Among retail, fashion and beauty issues tracked by WWD, International Flavors & Fragrances Inc. was the only other stock to advance as much as 2 percent, gaining exactly that percentage to close at exactly $100.

Shares of Cache Inc. were off 9.7 percent to $2.32, the largest decline in the WWD sample, followed by The Wet Seal Inc.’s 6.4 percent sell-off, to $1.03, and Delia’s Inc.’s 5.6 percent tumble to 85 cents.

The principal markets in Europe diverged, with Frankfurt’s DAX up 0.6 percent to 9,521.30 and Paris’s CAC 40 ahead 0.4 percent to 4.446.44.

The FTSE 100 in London was down a fraction to 6,796.44 while Milan’s FTSE MIB dropped 1.3 percent to 21,240.74.

Retail and luxury stocks were also uneven, with the day’s biggest declines including, off 6.5 percent to 38.98 pounds; Yoox Group retreating 6 percent to 23.20 euros; French Connection Group down 3.1 percent to 89 pence, and down 2.5 percent to 53 pence.

Stocks on the upswing included Metro AG, 2.3 percent to 28.15 euros; Gemfields, 1.3 percent to 40 pence, and Carrefour SA, 1.2 percent to 26.50 euros

The euro traded at $1.39 against the U.S. dollar while the pound fetched $1.69 and the Swiss franc equaled $1.14.

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