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Cautious Words From Wal-Mart, Federated

Both have disappointing mid-November results.
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Reports Monday from two of the nation's big retailers,


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Federated Department Stores


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, show the holiday shopping season off to a sluggish start.

Wal-Mart said November sales are on track to come in at the low end of a 2% to 4% growth forecast. "The four-week period is a little clouded by the Thanksgiving shift," the company said in a press release, adding that holiday sales will be pushed into December because Thanksgiving falls a week later this year.

The discount retailer said it would not provide updates on the Thanksgiving week until it releases monthly sales numbers on Dec. 5. For the week just ended, Wal-Mart's strongest sales categories were outerwear, intimate apparel, pet supplies, household chemicals, pharmacy, and health and beauty aids.

Federated said weekly sales at stores open at least a year for the week ended Nov. 23 "continued to be disappointing." The retailer said it was not yet possible to provide accurate guidance for November, given the importance of the last week of sales for the overall month.

Federated reiterated its forecast for flat to down 2.5% same-store sales for November and December.

Wal-Mart was up 31 cents, or 0.5%, to $54.07, while Federated was down 31 cents, or 0.1%, to $32.05.