NEW YORK — Shares of Charming Shoppes Inc. hit a new 52-week low before rallying Tuesday afternoon as the plus-sized specialty retailer warned its 2004 earnings would fall well short of Wall Street’s initial expectations.

The Bensalem, Pa.-based operator of 2,248 stores cited the continuing soft performance of Lane Bryant as it forecast net income for the new fiscal year ending Jan. 31, 2004, of $39 million to $42 million, or 33 to 35 cents a share, below consenses estimates of 42 cents, according to First Call. For the first half, which is historically stronger, earnings are expected to tally 28 cents compared with 33 cents last year. For the second half, earnings are expected to be 5 cents, better than the 2 cent losses projected by analysts on average.

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