Wall Street gained ground today as the government boosted its reading of third-quarter GDP, but retailers still ended with stock declines.

The S&P 500 Retailing Industry Group pulled back 0.1 percent, or 0.81 points, to 661.16, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.5 percent, or 59.75, to 13,311.72.

The retail index was pulled down by J.C. Penney Co. Inc., off 3.8 percent to $20.09; Macy’s Inc., 2.2 percent to $37.91; Kohl’s Corp., 2.2 percent to $43.79; The TJX Cos. Inc., 2.1 percent to $42.35; Target Corp., 1.9 percent to $60.36, and Nordstrom Inc., 1.3 percent to $52.11. Despite today’s declines, retail stocks are close to capping off a strong year, having risen 26.4 percent so far.

Markets have been choppy this month as lawmakers try to negotiate a way to avoid the fiscal cliff — a toxic combination of tax hikes and spending cuts set to kick in next year.

The overall economy appears to be slowly strengthening. The Commerce Department said today that the U.S. economy grew at an annual rate of 3.1 percent in the third quarter, up from the 2.7 percent it previously projected. Economists expected GDP growth to tick up to just 2.8 percent upon revision.

In Europe, markets saw modest gains or were flat.

The CAC 40 in Paris was up 0.5 percent to 3,666.73, followed by the FTSE MIB in Milan, which advanced 0.4 percent to 16,399.36. The DAX in Frankfurt climbed 0.05 percent to 7,672.10,while the FTSE 100 in London fell 0.05 percent to 5,958.34.

The day’s biggest gainers included Hugo Boss, up 2.3 percent to 81.60 euros; Asos.com, 1.9 percent to 26.13 pounds, and Safilo Group, 4.2 percent to 6.73 euros.

Among the stocks that lost the most ground were Carrefour, down 1.1 percent to 19.20 euros, and Hermès, off 1.1 percent to 225.75 euros.

The euro traded at $1.33 while the pound traded at $1.63 and the Swiss franc traded at $1.10.

The economic reports out of Europe were unfavorable.

The Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry said watch exports growth was below the annual average in November but still remained at a high level, buoyed by gold and steel timepieces.

Foreign sales of Swiss watches in the month totaled 2.15 billion Swiss francs, up 4.5 percent compared with the same prior-year, it said. This followed a 13.2 percent rise in October.

In the U.K., November retail sales were broadly flat compared with the previous month, edging down 0.1 percent in terms of money spent on goods. Compared with November 2011, the amount spent was estimated to have increased by 1.5 percent.

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