Billabong, Myer lead rally for battered stocks

BATTERED retail shares earned some much-needed respite this week as investors questioned whether heavily sold stocks could be worth a look following better-than-expected numbers.

BATTERED retail shares earned some much-needed respite this week as investors questioned whether heavily sold stocks could be worth a look following better-than-expected numbers.

Shares in the surfwear retailer Billabong International surged 12.5 per cent as investors bought into the stock after Macquarie Group announced it had become a substantial shareholder. Myer's share price has rebounded 20 per cent to $1.81, since slumping to a record low of $1.54 last Thursday.

"We've been very bearish on the discretionary retailers but its something I'd like to go back and have a look maybe the next week or the week after just to see whether it might be time to edge back into some of these [shares]," Tony Wilson, an analyst at Evans and Partners, said.

"They've come down so far they do look cheap, but I still have some concern around the earnings for the listed retailers."

The electronics retailer JB Hi-Fi has also risen 13.5 per cent to $8.99, after closing at $7.92 on Tuesday.

Billabong's shares closed 13?, or 12.5 per cent, higher at $1.17 yesterday, two weeks after posting a record low at just above 93?.

Macquarie issued a substantial change of notice for Billabong shares on Thursday evening, saying it had taken a 5.8 per cent stake.

The Morningstar analyst Tim Jones said Macquarie could merely be taking up part of the recent share offer.

"They would have got diluted so when they take the offer up they make an announcement to show what their holding was," he said.

It occurred on a quiet day when many fund managers were on holidays, so it would not take much to drive the share price up, he said.

Mr Wilson said investors might have been encouraged by nominal retail figures released by the Bureau of Statistics on Wednesday, which had been stronger than expected. "Whether that translates through to improved profit figures, that remains to be seen ... their cost structures are still under pressure."

The chief market analyst at CMC Markets, Ric Spooner, said it was unclear what was driving Billabong's share price yesterday.

"The fact that [Billabong] has come down so far and so fast ... often when they do correct, the correction can be fast as the market tends to reappraise things," Mr Spooner said.

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