- The Washington Times - Friday, May 15, 2009

Wall Street recovered some early-week losses Thursday, but a series of reports show the recession is far from over.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 8,331.32, up 46.43 points. The broader Standard & Poor’s 500 Index closed at 893.07, up 9.15 points, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index closed at 1,689.21, up 25.02 points.

The gains followed first-quarter earnings by such major U.S. retailers as Kohl’s Corp. and Urban Outfitters Inc. that were better than expected.

Urban Outfitters stock closed at $19.04 a share, up 21 cents. Kohl’s closed at $41.24, down 71 cents.

The markets have risen roughly 25 percent in the past two months, largely on promising first-quarter reports by major U.S. banks, followed by a government report that most of the banks could withstand a prolonged recession.

However, the markets have posted either losses or small gains this week in response to downbeat reports on retail spending and first-quarter reports from such major retailers as Macy’s Inc., which reported a first-quarter loss of $88 million but met analysts’ expectations.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s biggest retailer, on Thursday reported that first-quarter profits were flat and revenue decreased 0.6 percent, to $93.47 billion, from a year earlier.

Kohl’s reported net income of $137 million for the quarter, or 45 cents a diluted share, compared with $153 million, or 49 cents a diluted share, a year ago. The Wisconsin-based company reported net sales of $3.6 billion, an increase of 0.4 percent for the quarter.

Urban Outfitters, operating under the Anthropologie, Free People, Terrain and Urban Outfitters brands, announced first-quarter income of $46 million, or a net income of 18 cents a diluted share. The Philadelphia-based company reported sales of $385 million, 2 percent less than in the first quarter of 2008.

Investors focus on consumer spending because it accounts for about two-thirds of the economy.

The Labor Department reported Thursday that the number of first-time claims for unemployment insurance increased last week by 32,000. Unemployed workers filed 637,000 claims in the week ending May 9, compared with 605,000 filed in the previous week. The number of continuing claims also increased last week, to 6.6 million, a record high for 15 straight weeks and 202,000 more than the 6.36 million of the preceding week.

The agency also said the price of wholesale goods in April increased by 0.3 percent, higher than analysts expected, after decreases in February and March. The department said the largest increase was in food costs, which rose 1.5 percent last month.

On Wednesday, the Commerce Department said retail sales fell 0.4 percent in April, after analysts predicted no change from March, when sales dropped 1.3 percent, revised from 1.1 percent.

Overseas, Japan’s Nikkei stock average fell 2.64 percent. In afternoon trading, Britain’s FTSE 100 rose 0.72 percent, Germany’s DAX Index rose 0.23 percent, and France’s CAC-40 rose 0.11 percent.

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