A runner-up last year, the UBS group managed by Andrew Hughes earns third place, its highest ranking since 2008. The team of two covers 20 European general retailers, producing what one portfolio manager dubs “good work on strategic issues and industry trends.” Although positive on the sector for most of the past four years, the London-based researchers see increasing reason for caution, reports Hughes, 53. They recommended in March that investors sell the shares of Swedish clothing retailer H & M Hennes & Mauritz, citing currency-related gross margin concerns and rising operational expenses. Then in October, when the shares had slipped 5.7 percent, to 319.70 Swedish kronor — and were lagging their European peers by 7.5 percentage points — the pair raised its rating on H & M back to neutral, believing that those issues had been reflected in consensus earnings estimates. As of mid-January the stock had not changed course, having fallen 13.5 percent further, to Skr276.70, against the regional sector’s loss of 11.3 percent.