RETAIL STOCKS MISS OUT ON MARKETS’ UPSWING

Byline: Evan Clark

NEW YORK — Weak March sales reports and fears of more bad reports in the near term sent the retail sector down in the financial markets Thursday, on an overall up day for the Dow and Nasdaq.
Shares of apparel retailers, for the most part, languished while the Dow Jones Industrial Average picked up 113.47 to end the day at 10,126.94, and the Nasdaq closed up 62.48 to 1,961.43.
Walter Loeb, of Loeb Associates, said, “There’s a concern this is going to be a deeper and sharper downturn” than previously expected. He noted, though, that there is still a “continued interest in retail stocks as the first potential harbinger of recovery.”
That recovery may not be right around the corner. Loeb anticipates weak first-quarter earnings and “similar disappointments in the second and third quarters.” The back-to-school season, however, could prove to be robust and lead to better Christmas selling than last year, he said. The fourth quarter, with easier comparisons, could set the stage for a comeback.
A host of specialty stores took stock losses Thursday. Among them: Abercrombie & Fitch, down $3.06 to $31.93; Buckle, down $1.39 to $19.35; Gap, down 29 cents to $23.49; Hot Topic, down 62 cents to $27.73; J. Jill, down $2.03 to $15.97.
Chico’s, which Wednesday posted comps of 23.7 percent, saw its shares drop $1.90 to close at $39.05.
Still, there were some gainers. Among them: Ann Taylor, up $2.21 to $27.25; Bebe, up $2 to $17.70, and Charlotte Russe, up $2.09 to $29.09.
Shares of department stores also sank: Federated dropped 24 cents to $41.41; May Co. fell $1.17 to $34.83; Saks Inc., down 52 cents to $11.50. Dillard’s took the most dramatic drop, losing $4.07 to close at $16.98.
However, J.C. Penney rose $1.33 to $17.76, with the firm beating expectations for the month, and Kohl’s picked up $1 to end the day at $52.80.
The major discounters were split. Shares of Wal-Mart dropped 53 cents ending at $49.70, and Target picked up 15 cents to close at $35.85.

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