NEW YORK — Hartmarx CEO Homi Patel oversaw another tough quarter for the Chicago-based apparel maker, which lost $3.5 million, or 10 cents per diluted share, for the first quarter ending February 29 amid a morose retail environment and negative consumer sentiment. Sales for the quarter were $119 million compared with $120 million the previous year.

The loss, the second consecutive quarterly deficit, was in keeping with the company’s most recent guidance.

However, Patel affirmed previous assertions that company would swing to the black by the second quarter of 2008. “The benefits from the specific actions taken at the end of last year to reduce our moderate priced tailored clothing lines are gradually taking hold,” he said, referring to the DKNY and Perry Ellis licenses the company shed last year. He anticipates earnings per share between 5 and 8 cents for the quarter on sales in the range of $125 – $135 million.

Hartmarx’s push to diversify into women’s and contemporary sportswear is also bearing fruit. Monarchy, the designer denim brand it acquired last year, contributed $3.6 million to the first quarter revenues.

The troubled economy prompted the CEO to downgrade the full-year guidance for earnings per share to 20 to 35 cents from 30 to 40 cents previously. The company now expects 2008 revenues between $565 and $590 million, down from an earlier forecasts of $580 to $600 million.

Patel said the company will continue its strategy of investing in the better, bridge and luxury markets.