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2.7%  Q1 GDP    4.57%  avg. 30-year mortgage     9.5%  Unemployment

September Retail Creeps Up a Teeny-Tiny Amount

Retailers saw year-over-year September sales tick up by 0.1 percent, the first gain in 14 months.

As we say here, it's better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, but it's hardly cause for this enthusiastic quote from Michael P. Niemira, chief economist at International Council of Shopping Centers: "Let the retail recovery begin. This is the start of a better performance and better fundamentals," he said, according to the Associated Press.

We'll see about that. The nearly-impossible-to-see improvement came from three factors: (a) The Labor Day weekend was in September this year, and it's the biggest back-to-school shopping weekend, so September got that instead of August. (b) Several schools around the country pushed back school openings from August to September, so that moved back-to-school shopping, as well. (c) The year-over-year comps to last September were terrible, so almost anything is going to be an improvement. It's like this: If you had only three heart attacks this September but four last September, you're feeling ahead of the game.

Let's take a look at some individual retailers, how their sales looked in September and how they were forecast to perform. Several beat estimates, but remember: Estimates were set waaay low.

-- Target: down 1.7 percent. Forecast: down 2 percent.

-- Macy's: down 2.3 percent. Forecast: down 4.6 percent.

-- J.C. Penney: down 1.4 percent. Forecast: down 3.5 percent.

-- TJX, parent of discount retailer TJ Maxx: up 7 percent. Forecast: up 4.1 percent.

-- Gap: down 1 percent. Forecast: down 0.4 percent.

-- Limited Brands: up 1 percent. Forecast: down 2.4 percent.

Wal-Mart no longer reports monthly sales figures. As it is the world's largest retailer, understand that Wal-Mart's absence from these figures leaves a very large hole in the data.

-- Frank Ahrens
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By Frank Ahrens  |  October 8, 2009; 12:54 PM ET
Categories:  The Ticker  | Tags: Gap, J.C. Penney, Limited Brands, Macy's, Target, Wal-Mart, retail sales  
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