Retailers enjoyed a little bit of momentum and some good vibes on Wall Street as they headed into what’s expected to be a two-week shopping lull — with the Black Friday rush fading and the Christmas procrastinators biding their time.
Shares of better than a dozen U.S. retailers increased more than 4 percent Wednesday, with the pack being lead by Dillard’s Inc., ahead 10.4 percent to $63.44. Also seeing big increases were Target Corp., up 8.9 percent to $61.68; Macy’s Inc., 8.2 percent to $23.98; Nordstrom Inc., 7.2 percent to 45.76; Under Armour Inc., 5.7 percent to $12.18; Dicks Sporting Goods Inc., 5.1 percent to $29.46, and Gap Inc., 4.9 percent to $32.50.
The sector was helped by an up market as the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed ahead 0.4 percent to 23,940.68 having hit a new all-time high in intraday trading.
Sentiment around retail is seeing a holiday revival after a year when the sector shuttered hundreds of stores, sought to fend off Amazon and struggled to make a convincing case for their own growth amid declining foot traffic.
Helping things along, were Cyber Monday sales — Adobe said a record $6.59 billion was spent online for a 16.8 percent increase — and continued consumer confidence. The Conference Board said this week that confidence was at a 17-year high this month with people seeing an improving job market ahead.
But the signs of life should not be confused with actual bullishness.
Instinet equity analyst Simeon Siegel said investors are “feeling less bad.”
“There is definitely a holiday spirit in the air, but keep in mind that this is a sector that has been priced for death and we’re finding out it’s just really sick,” Siegel said.
He also noted that investors who bet that retail stocks would fall are looking to cover their short positions before year’s end.
“A few less bad data points can point this in a really powerful direction year-end for a lot of investors,” he said, adding with a note of caution, “Nothing structural has changed in terms of the threats facing retailers.”
Perhaps the biggest of those structural threats for the brick-and-mortar crowd is the rise of online shopping and, in particular, Amazon.com Inc.
Amazon said Cyber Monday was its biggest shopping day ever and that orders though its app jumped more than 50 percent form a year earlier, with its Echo Dot AI assistant ranking as the bestseller. GBH Insights reported earlier this week that Amazon was on track to win 45 to 50 percent of all online holiday sales this year.
But, as if to illustrate the dangers of reading too much into a single day’s stock swings, shares of Amazon slid 2.7 percent to $1,161.27.
Amazon’s on the other side of the curve, having already enjoyed a rally based on the solid start to holiday sales that helped briefly push founder Jeff Bezos’ net worth over $100 billion. But as of the close on Wednesday, his nest egg had shrunk to $97.5 billion, according to Forbes.