Disappointing third-quarter results from Gap. Inc., Sears Holdings Corp. and Abercrombie & Fitch Co. left a bitter aftertaste for investors, who sold off shares of all three companies today, helping to drag the sector down.

 

Gap, which late Thursday said quarterly profits declined 36.3 percent, saw its stock fall 2.6 percent to $18.76 today, while Sears, which reported a $421 million quarterly loss Thursday morning, saw its stock retreat 1.4 percent to $64.27.

 

Abercrombie’s stock declined 4.5 percent to $47.30 as investors continued to digest the company’s third-quarter report from earlier in the week, when its earnings of 57 cents a share missed Wall Street’s estimate by 14 cents.

 

Also losing ground were Saks Inc., down 2.9 percent to $9.15, and American Eagle Outfitters Inc., off 1 percent to $13.60. Shares of Ann Inc. fell 7 percent to $23.53 even though the company posted a 33.4 percent gain in quarterly profits this morning.

 

Retail overall, as seen in the S&P Retail Index, fell 0.8 percent, or 4.18 points, to 524.71, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average inched up 0.2 percent, or 25.43 points, to 11,796.16.

 

But even as individual U.S. stocks mostly ebbed and flowed along with their success with shoppers, the market in general is being restrained by the twin European worries of a debt crisis and a possible recession.

 

Markets in Europe ended down as the region’s leaders struggled to chart a path forward. European Central Bank (ECB) governor Mario Draghi called on European leaders to speed the implementation of the new Euro zone bailout fund. And U.K. prime minister David Cameron met his German counterpart Angela Merkel in Berlin, but, according to news reports, neither broached the hot-button issue of whether the ECB should be empowered to bail out debt-stricken countries in the region.

 

Milan’s FTSE MIB was the only index that posted a gain, rising 0.2 percent to 15,232.56. London’s FTSE 100 fell 1.1 percent to 5,362.94 while Frankfurt’s DAX tumbled 0.9 percent to 5,800.24 and Paris’ CAC 40 fell 0.4 percent to 2,997.01 points.

 

The day’s biggest gainers included Safilo Group, which rose 6.5 percent to 4.95 euros, and Yoox, which climbed 2.6 percent to 9.42 euros. Among those losing ground were apparel producer Aeffe, which fell 2.3 percent to 0.59 euros; Burberry Group, which tumbled 2 percent to 12.44 pounds, and French Connection, which retreated 3.2 percent to 2 pounds. The euro traded at $1.35 while the pound traded at $1.58.

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