Five Retail Stocks Soaring on Improved July Sales

U.S. retail sales increased at their fastest rate in five months in July – giving retail stocks across the board a nice kick in the pants.

As a whole, July retail sales improved 0.8% over June, marking the first month-to-month increase since March.

The improved sales came as a bit of a surprise given the slight uptick in the unemployment rate last month. Nonetheless, U.S. consumers spent more last month, easing fears about a double-dip recession and giving the retail sector a nice boost.

Retail stocks of various kinds are posting some healthy gains today. A few of them are making really big moves.

Here are five that stand out:

1.  Michael Kors (NYSE: KORS): The luxury-apparel designer has made a whopping 16% jump today. But Kors’ huge leap forward has more to do with its own stellar earnings than the retail sector’s collective improvement. Profits were up an astounding 71% from a year ago during the last quarter, the company reported today. Shares have now more than doubled since the stock made its public trading debut last December.

2.  Saks Inc. (NYSE: SKS): Another luxury retailer making a big move. Saks also reported earnings today. Unlike Michael Kors, the company’s profits declined last quarter. However, overall sales were better than Wall Street was expecting, boosting shares more than 6.5% in late-day trading.

3.  Home Depot (NYSE: HD): In another sign that a housing recovery may be on the horizon, sales of building materials increased 1% in July – enough to push the nation’s largest building-supplies retailer to a new 52-week high. Home Depot shares have gained nearly 4% today.

4.  J.C. Penney (NYSE: JCP): Today’s big gains haven’t been restricted to luxury department stores. J.C. Penney shares have climbed 1.5% after opening near a 12-month low this morning.

5.   Sears (NASDAQ: SHLD): See above. One of J.C. Penney’s closest competitors by size and longevity posted similar returns today, gaining 1.6% as of 2:45 p.m. eastern.

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