The winning streak ended at seven.
Retail shares weren’t able to pull off an eighth consecutive week of gains, falling 2 percent on the week after a 2.3 percent decline on Friday, but their overall performance over the longer term remained strong. With Friday’s finish of 331.66, the S&P Retail Index is up 18.8 percent this year and on Thursday finished the month of April 15.6 percent ahead of its final position in March.
While retail stocks couldn’t eke out an increase last week, the major indices were able to, as contrasting signs about the economy — from the Chrysler bankruptcy to better-than-expected numbers on weekly unemployment claims — provided more of a benefit than a toll. For the week, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 1.7 percent to 8,212.41, the Nasdaq Composite finished ahead 1.5 percent at 1,719.20 and the S&P 500 rose 1.3 percent to 877.52.
However, the S&P Retail gauge’s double-digit expansion so far in 2009 has by far outpaced the major indices, with the Nasdaq up 9 percent and the Dow and S&P 500 off 6.4 and 2.9 percent, respectively. In April, the Nasdaq rose 12.4 percent, the S&P 500 9.4 percent and the Dow 7.4 percent.
This week, investors will be trying to guess the stock impact of comparable-store sales in April, which will be reported on Thursday and, unlike those of April 2008, include Easter sales.
“Mall traffic remains weak as consumers continue to shop mostly on need,” commented Standard & Poor’s team of retail equity analysts, led by Marie Driscoll. Overall, the analysts are looking for a weighted-comp increase of 0.2 percent in April for the 23 retailers they cover.
“We look for another month of double-digit online retail gains, mitigating some of the weak store traffic trends, and note the growing e-mail campaigns by retailers alerting shoppers of 20 percent to 50 percent off limited-time sales offers,” the analysts said.