Retail stocks bounce back in relief as earnings come in better than feared

Pedestrians are reflected in the window of an Abercrombie & Fitch store in San Francisco.

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Pedestrians are reflected in the window of an Abercrombie & Fitch store in San Francisco.

Retail stocks are rallying on Wall Street again.

A slew of quarterly earnings reports this week from a mixed bag of companies has sent some retail stocks soaring to new highs. It’s a welcome narrative amid chatter about declining sales, falling foot traffic, store closures and bankruptcies.

“We’re starting to see a bifurcation of the retail landscape,” Greg Portell, head of A.T. Kearney’s retail practice, told CNBC in an interview.

Wednesday’s and Thursday’s group of retailers had largely positive news, but there has also been a group of retailers that “didn’t have a whole lot of confidence,” he said.

“You can see the different strategies that are going down. If you are one of the positive [retailers], you have stabilization of revenue and a lot of commentary around keeping the customer at the center.”

Thursday morning brought mostly upbeat results from Dollar Tree, Abercrombie & Fitch, Tiffany & Co., Sears and Signet Jewelers. Off-price chain Burlington also reported impressive same-store sales growth of 3.5 percent, raising its outlook for the full year.

The S&P 500 Retail ETF (XRT) was more than 2.5 percent higher shortly after the market open.

Dollar Tree reported better-than-expected quarterly profit and comparable sales, aided by lower costs and discounts along with a 1 percent rise in same-store sales at its Family Dollar business. Its shares were last climbing more than 8 percent on the news.

Apparel retailer Abercrombie said sales at its established stores fell 1 percent in the second quarter, better than an expected decline of 2.1 percent, according to a survey of analysts by Thomson Reuters. Abercrombie’s stock skyrocketed more than 15 percent higher on the news.

The retailer added that its Hollister nameplate also saw improvements during the latest period, allowing Abercrombie to beat analysts’ expectations on the top and bottom line.

Tiffany reported better-than-expected quarterly earnings and sales. The luxury retailer appointed Coach‘s former creative director, Reed Krakoff, as its chief designer in January.

The New York-based retailer said it saw especially strong demand for its fashion and designer jewelry in Japan, and saw better trends at its wholesale diamond business. Tiffany shares were last trading about 3 percent higher.

Another jewelry stock, Signet, announced the acquisition of e-commerce company R2Net and reported profit and revenue above Street forecasts. Signet’s brands include Piercing Pagoda, Sterling Jewelers and Zale Jewelry, among others, which tend to sell jewelry at more affordable prices than Tiffany. Signet shares were up more than 21 percent.

Sears wrapped up the last of the department store chains’ second-quarter earnings on Thursday, reporting a narrower-than-expected loss and updating analysts and investors with progress regarding its return to profitability. Sears shares climbed nearly 10 percent Thursday morning on the news, though the retailer also announced it will be shuttering another 28 stores.

Looking ahead, Sears remains confident it will achieve $1.25 billion in annualized cost savings by the end of the year.

On Wednesday, positive quarterly results after the bell from Williams-Sonoma, PVH and Guess led to more soaring stocks.

Upscale kitchen accessories retailer Williams-Sonoma topped earnings estimates for the second quarter, and shares were last trading about 5 percent higher Thursday.

PVH, owner of Calvin Klein, also managed to post better-than-forecast profit, sending its stock more than 5 percent higher by Thursday morning.

Guess, following upbeat reports from apparel retailers American Eagle and Express on Wednesday morning, topped analysts’ estimates and issued a strong forecast for the third quarter and the full year. The stock was trading more than 17 percent higher Thursday morning.

Even though so many retail stocks were rallying, the industry still has a way to go in order to make up for a beating that has ensued for much of the year. The S&P 500 Retail ETF has fallen more than 10 percent so far this year.

Thursday, though, marks a bright spot and what could be the start of a rebound.

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