It hasn't been the most obvious winning streak I've ever witnessed, but it's now been a week since the broad-based S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC ) had a down day! In spite of the fact that no deal has been reached regarding the fiscal cliff and House Speaker John Boehner hinted that a deal is far from certain, the prospect of compromise pushed stocks decisively higher after many days of waffling back and forth.
On the day, the S&P 500 finished higher by 9.29 points (0.65%), to end at 1,427.84.
Travel service TripAdvisor (NASDAQ: TRIP ) led the S&P 500 higher, gaining as much as 23% at one point before finishing higher by "just" 6.6% after it disclosed that Liberty Interactive (NASDAQ: LINTA ) purchased the nearly 5 million shares that TripAdvisor chairman Barry Diller sold for a hefty premium. Headed by John Malone, who has a penchant for picking out media sector rebound candidates, Liberty Interactive's stake in TripAdvisor is only growing.
Apparel and accessories retailer Urban Outfitters (NASDAQ: URBN ) also rang the register for shareholders today, up 4.5%, following a regulatory filing that disclosed that its same-store sales are running in the high single digits for the fourth quarter. This is a make-or-break time of year for retailers, who are pushing hard to clear their shelves of inventory. As long as Urban Outfitters isn't sacrificing margins with big discounts to push sales out the door, then shareholders will probably be looking at a solid fourth-quarter report in early 2013.
Holding the S&P 500 back were the three discount dollar stores -- Dollar General (NYSE: DG ) , Family Dollar Stores (NYSE: FDO ) , and Dollar Tree (NASDAQ: DLTR ) , which fell by 7.8%, 8.4%, and 3.7%, respectively. The impetus for the drop was Dollar General's cautious fourth-quarter outlook despite topping Wall Street's expectations in the third quarter. Noting that consumer spending remains tight, Dollar General narrowed its full-year EPS forecast to a range of $2.82-$2.85, which has a slightly lower midpoint than the $2.85 consensus currently on the Street. Even dollar stores like Dollar General and Dollar Tree require consumers to step up and buy a higher-margin item now and then. If that doesn't happen, even they will struggle in a tight-spending environment.
Retail's true champions
The retail space is in the midst of the biggest paradigm shift since mail order took off at the turn of last century. Only the most forward-looking and capable companies will survive, and they'll handsomely reward investors who understand the landscape. You can read about the 3 Companies Ready to Rule Retail in our special report. Uncovering these top picks is free today; just click here to read more.