Retail stocks rose for the fifth straight session Wednesday, logging a new postrecession high as Federal Reserve chairman Ben S. Bernanke told lawmakers that the economy was on the mend, though the recovery was not yet “established.”


The S&P Retail Index rose 0.2 percent, or 1.12 points, to 518.25 — the best close since July 2007. The Dow Jones Industrial Average inched up 0.1 percent, or 6.74 points, to 12,239.89. Retail gainers included J.C. Penney Co. Inc., up 2.2 percent to $35.79, and Sears Holdings Corp., ahead 2 percent to $87.32.


Polo Ralph Lauren Corp.’s stock shot up 8.3 percent to $125.35 after the firm posted a 51.6 percent gain in third-quarter profits and doubled its quarterly dividend to 20 cents a share.


Bernanke, in testimony before the House Budget Committee, said the recovery appeared to have strengthened over the past few months.


“We have seen increased evidence that a self-sustaining recovery in consumer and business spending may be taking hold,” he said. “Notably, real consumer spending rose at an annual rate of more than 4 percent in the fourth quarter.”


But, he said, unemployment, currently at 9 percent, continues to trouble the economy.


“Until we see a sustained period of stronger job creation, we cannot consider the recovery to be truly established,” he said.

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