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WPS, Dan River rally

New York — In a sudden and unexpected burst of good news — for an industry better known for its hard-luck stories — stock prices surged sharply higher last week for two major home fashions players, WestPoint Stevens and Dan River.

Beaten up and left for dead over the past 12 months — just like the broader textiles industry — both stocks had been trading near their 52-week lows until launching a strong rally a little more than a week ago.

Over the seven-day period beginning Fri., March 15 and ending at noon on Fri., March 22, Dan River stock rocketed up by 65.1%, adding $0.69 a share and climbing to $1.75.

Over the same time frame, WestPoint stock zoomed up by 28.2 percent, climbing to $2.50 a share from just $1.95 the week before.

Spokesmen for both companies declined to comment on the activity of the stock price.

The acceleration in stock price could signal a long-awaited recovery in the home fashions business and comes as major textiles producers are saying that first-quarter business, so far, is remarkably strong. Indeed, sales for the January through March period are rising at a heady double-digit pace, said several textiles producers, driven by refreshingly strong sales of home fashions at retail and low retail inventories that suddenly need restocking.

Indeed, in the Commerce Department's recent report on February retail sales, home-related categories were the strongest of all retail channels of distribution by a wide margin. Sales of furniture and home furnishings retailers jumped up by 1.5 percent during the month, following a 0.4 percent increase in January and a 1.4 percent jump in December.

And the picture looks even brighter when measured against the past 12 months. Since last February, according to government numbers, sales in furniture and home furnishings stores have climbed by 5.8 percent. In stark contrast, sales at clothing and accessories stores were virtually flat, edging up a skimpy 0.5 percent. And overall sales in department stores and discounters also moved up at a slower pace than those of home furnishings retailers, adding on 4.8 percent.

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