Consumer confidence jumped up to a three-month high according to the most recent survey from Thomson Reuters and the University of Michigan. Though the numbers do contradict against the Conference Board's index that was released earlier this week that showed the biggest drop since October of 2011. Both surveys agreed that Americans are pessimistic regarding their future economic outlook.
But whether consumers are growing more or less confident in the economy, the important thing is that they're spending. With about 70 percent of the U.S. economy reliant on consumer spending, growth and recovery will hinge on whether Americans are willing to open up their wallets going forward. In July, personal spending rose to 0.4 percent, representing the largest increase in five months, according to the Commerce Department.
Another encouraging sign is the strength that major retail stocks have displayed, many of which driven recently by solid quarterly results. Here is a look of some of the best performers in year-to-date.
Unsurprisingly, industry leaders like Wal-Mart (WMT), Target (TGT) and Costco (COST) are among the list of best performers. Shares of Wal-Mart and Costco are up around 20 percent so far in 2012, while Target shares are up over 25 percent.
Department stores have been even better performers. Dillard's (DDS) is up almost 70 percent, Sear's (SHLD) is up over 65 percent, and discount fashion chain TJ Maxx (TJX) is up over 40 percent. Leading the pack, however, is Bon Ton Stores (BONT). Shares are up over 200 percent year-to-date, though it's $200 million market cap makes it the smallest name here by far.
Lastly, a quick look at a few apparel companies that have roughly doubled in value since the start of the year. The Walking Company (WALK) has seen it's stock price run up over $125 percent so far this year. Gap (GPS) has also been one of the brightest spots in retail with shares up over 95 percent. Michael Kors (KORS), which IPO'd in December, is enjoying a stellar debut year with shares up over 90 percent year-to-date and up over 270 percent from its IPO price of $20.
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