Abercrombie & Fitch Co., suffering under the weight of a profit warning, and Gap Inc., which had a pleasant surprise for investors, served as bookends for retail stocks today.

Shares of Abercrombie flopped 13.7 percent to $40.40 after the company said its fourth-quarter comparable sales came in flat and that “lower-than-expected sales and higher markdowns” would cut deeply into its gross margins. The trendy retailer projected quarterly earnings of $1.10 to $1.15 a share, well below $1.55 analysts expected.

 

Gap, on the other hand, said its overall comps fell 4 percent last month, but the firm also boosted fourth-quarter profit projections to 41 cents to 42 cents a share, well ahead of the 35 cents analysts expected. That drove the stock to its best one-day performance since 2008, jumping up 10.6 percent to $21.52.

On the broader scene, the S&P Retail Index inched up 0.5 percent, to 2.81 points, to 553.73 as a host of retailers reported what were, outside of the luxe and discount spheres, luke warm January comps.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 9.38 points to 12,707.08. Other gainers for the day were Hot Topic Inc., up 6.3 percent to $8.14; Limited Brands Inc., 3.8 percent to $43.51; Macy’s Inc., 3.7 percent to $35.23, and Kohl’s Corp. 2.7 percent to $46.77.

Investors are looking ahead to a fresh reading on unemployment Friday.

In Europe, markets posted modest gains.

The DAX in Frankfurt fared the best of all, rising 0.6 percent to 6,654.98, followed by the CAC 40 in Paris, which climbed 0.3 percent to 3,376.66. The FTSE MIB in Milan advanced 0.2 percent to 16,304.20, while the FTSE 100 rose 0.1 percent to 5,797.47.

Fashion and luxury stocks put on a mixed show, with the day’s biggest gainers including Benetton Group, which will soon be taken private. That stock rocketed 20.7 percent to 4.70 euros following the announcement from the group’s owners Edizione Srl.

Yoox rose 4.2 percent to 9.15 euros, while Asos.com climbed 3.8 percent to 18.45 pounds, and Burberry Group advanced 2 percent to 14.35 pounds.

Among the stocks that lost the most ground on Thursday were Unilever, which posted a 1 percent rise in 2011 profits earlier in the day. The stock was down 3.7 percent to 24.84 euros.

Arcandor, meanwhile, fell 1.9 percent to 0.05 euros.

The euro traded at $1.32 while the pound traded at $1.58.

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