NEW YORK — Although the broader markets slid on Friday as Wall Street fretted over the impact of higher fuel costs, the WWD Stock Index closed the week unscathed.

The WWD index finished last week up 0.7 percent to 1,083.63 from 1,076.07 the prior week while the S&P 500 dropped 1.1 percent to 1,095.74 from 1,108.12.

Investors in fashion and retail seem to be in a holding pattern. The big bet is how this year’s holiday shopping season will fare. In several firms’ forecasts, estimates ranged from gains of 3 to 6 percent.

The more bearish views on holiday sales were from analysts who see more challenges than opportunities, which was the mantra during two conferences last Thursday.

Analysts and economics speaking at the “Christmas ’04: The Retail Forecast” conference at the Fashion Institute of Technology here expected slow job growth, uncertainty in the presidential election, rising gas and fuel oil prices and a lousy long-term weather forecast to hurt sales and offset positive trends, which include a strong fashion cycle and two extra shopping days this year between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Marshal Cohen, analyst at The NPD Group, said during the conference that he predicts a 3.8 percent sales gain this year, “which is about a carbon copy of what we had last year,” he said.

Mark Friedman, equity analyst at Merrill Lynch, said he sees same-store sales rising 4 percent for the companies on his radar, which include specialty retailers such as American Eagle Outfitters, Gap Inc., TJX Cos. and The Children’s Place, among others.

“[This year] offers some hurdles that need to be cleared,” Friedman said in a report released the day of the conference. “We will be coming off an election, we are still in Iraq [although not at war], interest rates are creeping up, there are no tax rebates and energy and food costs are higher. We believe those most at risk are the retailers targeting the lower-end consumer, as they are spending more to heat their home and drive their car, [which will have] a greater impact on disposable income.”

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