NEW YORK — The WWD Stock Index was essentially flat compared with last week, dropping 0.04 percent to 1,083.25 from 1,083.65 despite sluggish September same-store sales, record-high oil prices and weaker-than-expected job growth.

Among the broader indices, the S&P 500 dipped 0.8 percent to 1,122.14 from 1,131.5 a week ago.

Given mixed signals for J.C. Penney Co. investors chose to concentrate on the positive. Earlier in the week Piper Jaffray downgraded the company’s stock to “market perform” from “outperform” because of concern of a slowdown in spending by its core customers, but on Thursday Penney’s said its department store comps were up 2 percent last month. Investors traded on the latter news, pushing up the stock 3.8 percent to $36.60 from $35.26 a week ago.

Analysts also rethought their positions on Gap Inc., but, unlike Penney’s, the company found no silver lining in comps — sales in stores open at least a year. Piper Jaffray hit Gap with its second stock downgrade in a week; Lazard Fréres & Co. and Banc of America Securities issued downward profit revisions, and then the nation’s largest specialty retailer said September comps fell for a fourth consecutive month, this time by 3 percent. Nevertheless, investors liked Gap’s share price enough to trade up the stock 0.6 percent to $19.15 from $19.04 last week.

Tommy Hilfiger Corp. was hit with two more class action shareholder lawsuits last week stemming from a federal investigation of overseas commissions paid to a related company. The company’s shares fell 7.8 percent to $9.05 from $9.82 a week ago.

Struggling Tarrant Apparel Group said it expects to post a steep loss for fiscal 2004 and anticipates significantly softer sales in the second half as retailers were less aggressive following a lackluster back-to-school shopping season. Investors traded down the company’s shares 7.1 percent to 79 cents from 85 cents.

— Dan Burrows

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