Propelled by their single best day of the year on Thursday, retail stocks finished their fourth consecutive week of gains with a 2.7 percent advance.


Although down 0.5 percent on Friday, the S&P Retail Index ended the week at 554.72. The bulk of its increase came from its 2.4 percent boost on Thursday, when retailers reported same-store sales results that were well above analysts’ expectations. The jump was not only the single biggest of the year and the best since November, but allowed the index to hit the highest mark since its recalibration in June 2002. The midday high of 559.73 constituted a dramatic comeback from the index’s 10.5 percent slide after it hit its previous all-time high of 552.11 on May 13.


Like the broader market, retail stocks benefited from encouraging signs about the job market on Thursday, when first-time jobless claims declined more than expected, but suffered on Friday, when the Labor Deprtment reported that the U.S. unemployment rate grew to 9.2 percent in June from 9.1 percent in May.


With all three major indices down on the final day of trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average finished the week up 0.6 percent to 12,657.20, the S&P 500 up 0.3 percent to 1,343.80 and the Nasdaq Composite up 1.6 percent to 2,859.81.


Of 168 equities tracked by WWD, 126 last week were up, 37 down and five flat. The biggest increases among apparel, beauty and retail stocks came from Bebe Stores Inc., up 23.5 percent, and American Apparel Inc., up 17.6 percent. Both reported strong quarterly sales trends on Thursday.


In Europe, where sovereign debt issues continue to dominate investors’ attention, London’s FTSE 100 was flat for the week at 5,990.58, the CAC 40 in Paris was down 2.3 percent to 3,913.55 and Frankfurt’s DAX was down 0.2 percent to 7,402.73.


Major Asian indices were ahead for the week, led by the Nikkei 225’s 2.7 percent gain to 10,137.73. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index was up 1.5 percent to 22,726.43 while, in Shanghai, the SSE was up 1.4 percent to 2,797.77.

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