Retail shares outperformed the broader market today, sending the sector to its second-consecutive day of gains.

The S&P 500 Retailing Industry Group registered a 0.5 percent gain to 852.02. The rise in retail came against the backdrop of a 0.2 percent decline for the S&P 500, to 1,751.64, and a decline of less than 0.1 percent for the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which settled in at 15,440.23.

Having declined almost without interruption since the start of the year, the pick-up in retail stocks was generally viewed as a buying opportunity with little in the way macroeconomic news to help it along.

On Thursday, a small sample of retailers will report comparable sales results for January. With demand low, promotion levels high and weather unfavorable, monthly results are expected to be fair at best. Thomson Reuters projects a median increase of 1.9 percent among reporting companies, with apparel and particularly teen apparel projected to report decreases for the month.

Among retail, fashion and beauty equities tracked by WWD, Stein Mart Inc. registered one of the stronger increases, growing 5 percent to $12.29 in advance of its comp report Thursday. American Apparel Inc., also due to report, saw its shares rise 4.7 percent to 89 cents.

Also showing strength were two non-reporters, The Men’s Wearhouse Inc. and The TJX Cos. Inc., which were ahead 3.2 and 3.1 percent, respectively, to $46.93 and $57.79.

J.C. Penney Co. Inc., which dipped below $5 a share for a 52-week low on Tuesday, bounced back with a 2.8 percent advance to $5.22.

Among the decliners was Ralph Lauren Corp., which fell 3.6 percent to $148.71 after reporting better-than-expected third-quarter results but sounded a cautious note about operating margins in upcoming quarters. Both The Estée Lauder Cos. and Elizabeth Arden Inc. lost ground after logging declines in quarterly profits. Shares of Lauder dropped 5.5 percent to $65.36 and Arden’s were off 6.2 percent to $24.11.

Most European markets ended with marginal gains at the close of trading, but the DAX in Frankfurt was down 0.1 percent to 9,116.32.

The FTSE MIB in Milan rose 0.3 percent to 19,069.62, while the FTSE 100 in London was up 0.1 percent to 6,457.89, and the CAC 40 in Paris advanced less than 0.1 percent to 4,117.79.

The day’s biggest gainers in the fashion world included Mulberry Group, up 2.6 percent to 6.66 pounds; The Swatch Group, 4.5 percent to 96.15 Swiss francs, and Brunello Cucinelli, 4.3 percent to 20.50 euros.

French Connection Group shares jumped 16 percent to 43 pence after the company released an upbeat trading statement and boosted its profit guidance.

The company said its loss, before taxes and nonrecurring items, would be less than previously expected, in the region of 4.7 million pounds for the full year, compared with last year’s loss of 7.2 million pounds.

Among the stocks that lost the most ground were, 1.8 percent to 29.24 euros; Ferragamo, 1.1 percent to 22.19 euros, and Gemfields, 3.5 percent to 34 pence.

The euro traded at $1.35 versus the U.S. dollar while the pound fetched $1.63 and the Swiss franc equaled $1.11.

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