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The credit-delinquency issues




don't appear to have spread to other retailers.

Federated said on Thursday that delinquent payments from customers of its


unit could cut as much as $400 million from earnings before interest and taxes in the second and third quarters. Federated blamed higher interest rates and gas prices, among other factors, for making it tougher for lower-income customers to meet credit obligations.

But other retailers don't seem to be feeling the pinch.


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, in fact, said Friday that strength at its credit business helped boost second-quarter earnings per share by 29%. Credit operating income rose 26%, the company said. Unlike Federated, Sears isn't increasing its provisions for uncollectible or doubtful accounts, and its delinquency rate fell to 7.15% during the quarter, compared with 7.2% in the quarter ended April 1, and 7.58% in the quarter ended Jan. 1. Federated, by contrast, saw delinquencies rise to 21% in the latest period from about 14% to 15% in the first quarter.

Retailers' shares were mixed Friday, suggesting investors don't anticipate a widespread rise in delinquencies. Federated's shares recovered slightly, rising 15/16 to 24 7/16. Sears shares fell 2 to 31 3/4.

On Thursday, a spokeswoman for


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said the company -- which admittedly targets a wealthier demographic than Fingerhut -- was having no problems at all with its credit business. Representatives of

Circuit City

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said they couldn't comment on delinquencies because that sort of information is material.

Analysts and credit experts, however, said the credit worries weren't widespread. "While we are aware of the increasing debt burden of the consumer, we have not yet seen evidence of a deterioration in credit," says Claudia Hite, spokeswoman for

, part of credit information company


. "The performance of securitized credit card receivables has been steady over the past year, according to

Standard & Poor's

, who track the performance of $300 billion in receivables," she says.

So either Federated's problems are its alone -- blame Fingerhut's transition to revolving-credit and delayed-payment promotions -- or it's the canary in the economic coal mine for the other retailers. With retail earnings season getting into gear, companies may expect to get a little more scrutiny on credit following Federated's bad news this week.