Retailers mixed better-than-expected third-quarter profits and cautious holiday outlooks last week, prompting investors to stand pat and hope inventory and expense discipline will be sufficient to boost earnings in the fourth quarter.

This story first appeared in the November 23, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The S&P Retail Index notched down 0.1 percent, or 0.27 points, on Friday, to 400.55, a 1.2 percent decline for the week. The Dow Jones Industrial Average slumped 0.1 percent, or 14.28 points, Friday to close at 10,318.16, a 0.5 percent rise for the week.

Two of the strongest retail gains for the week came from The Bon-Ton Stores Inc. and Dillard’s Inc., a rare burst of optimism from the world of regional department stores, which has been seen as competitively pressured for some time. Bon-Ton’s stock rose 20 percent last week, when the firm reported that third-quarter losses narrowed to $4.2 million as customer traffic increased. And Dillard’s advanced 18.7 percent as it returned to the black in the third quarter with net income of $8 million.

Of 171 issues monitored by WWD, 54 were up for the week, 114 were down and three were unchanged.

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