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(Analyst commentary and stock price added.)



) -- It has been a calming week for women's retailers, as

AnnTaylor Stores


ends the week swinging to a profit in its third quarter.

Still, the retailer issued a sluggish holiday outlook, sending shares tumbling 5.9% to $13 in pre-market trading.

During the quarter, the company earned $2.07 million, or 3 cents a share, compared with a loss of $13.4 million, or 24 cents, in the year-ago period.

Excluding restructuring charges of 17 cents a share, AnnTaylor said it would have earned 20 cents a share, easily topping analysts' estimates of 7 cents.

Sales slipped 12% to $462.4 million from $572.2 million, while same-store sales tumbled 13.7%. By division, comparable sales tanked 25.8% at its namesake chain, and were down 9.7% at Loft.

The majority of the earnings gain came from strong gross margins.

Looking ahead, AnnTaylor foresees fourth-quarter sales coming in slightly below results in the third quarter. Analysts are calling for revenue of $458.2 million.

And like


(TGT) - Get Free Report

, the company foresees a "highly promotional" holiday.

"Sales guidance is slightly below our fourth-quarter sales estimates... While gross margin is expected

to be up significantly, the bar on the Street is already high," UBS Roxanne Meyer wrote in a note.

On Thursday, rival

New York & Company


said it

narrowed its loss in its third quarter

and expects to move out of the red in the fourth quarter.

Dress Barn

( DBRN) also reported positive news, as its first-quarter profit grew 10%, as sales improved. The retailer also raised its 2010 guidance to a range of $1.20 to $1.30 per share, above the $1.20 a share analysts forecast.

But the clear winner in the women's apparel sector this week was


(CHS) - Get Free Report

, which

posted a gain in both profit and sales

in its third quarter.

-- Reported by Jeanine Poggi in New York

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