NEW YORK (
and other retail stocks will be in the spotlight Thursday as the group will be releasing same-store sales results for December, perhaps the most critical month for retailers because of the holiday shopping season.
same-store sales index is expected to post a 2% increase for December, the best showing since a 3.4% rise in April 2008 and much stronger than December 2008's 3.6% decline.
Discount and apparel retailers, such as
, are expected to perform best.
On the other hand, teen/child apparel stores like
Abercrombie & Fitch
and department stores including
are expected to once again see weak comparable store numbers.
Jharonne Martis, director of consumer research at
, said that the question remains whether retailers can maintain a positive trend in 2010. "The number one threat to consumer spending remains unemployment," she wrote in a retail preview Wednesday. "Historically, when high unemployment persists, consumer confidence drops."
Investors will have to wait until Friday for the government's employment report for December. Economists polled by
expect that the Labor Department will say that the economy will see no net change in employment, compared to the 11,000 jobs lost in November.
On the positive side, Martis adds that, based on stronger holiday traffic and same-store sales expectations, retailers could raise their fourth-quarter guidance, which would provide a boost to the sector.
Investors will also be watching for a handful of earnings reports, with
on tap to release results early Thursday, and
set to report after the closing bell.
On the economic front, Thursday will bring the final initial jobless claims data for 2009, which is expected to show a bump higher to 440,000 claims from 432,000 the week before. The Labor Department surprised economists last week when its report on jobless claims showed a decline instead of an increase, which helped boost U.S. indices.
Thursday will also see the first remarks from
officials since Wednesday's release of the minutes from the last meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee. St. Louis Fed President James Bullard will speak before the Shanghai Jiao Tong University Forum and Kansas City Fed President Thomas Hoenig will offer his outlook at an event in Kansas City.
-- Written by Robert Holmes in Boston
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