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In Last Quarter Of Year, A Focus On What's Working

The recession also forced many luxury boutiques and small businesses to close, which has translated into greater market share and higher profits for the companies that were able to survive.

"What a lot of people are missing is that they shouldn't be looking at the overall consumer spending numbers but the strong companies that have made it through," Hoffman said. "Even if the overall spending numbers are flat, you're going to get massive market share gains for the ones that are still here."

You only need to go to the mall to see this in action. Macy's is up 44 percent for the year and J.C. Penney Co. is up 27 percent. Shares of teen retailer Abercrombie and Fitch Co. are up 30 percent.

It is true that industrials and discretionary consumer stocks tend to be the first ones that show growth after a recession, which means that their strong performance this year could be seen as something as unnoteworthy as October following September. So an argument can be made that their rallies are following a historical pattern and will peak soon.

But here's something else to consider. The industrial companies in the S&P 500 index are trading at 15.9 times their expected earnings, which is 20 percent less than the category's average over the past 15 years, said Howard Silverblatt, the senior index analyst at Standard and Poor's. Shares in the consumer spending segment of the index, meanwhile, are trading at 15.3 times their expected earnings, which is 34 percent less than their historical average.

Copyright 2010 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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