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Updated from 8:42 a.m. EST

High concept and higher comps cheered Wall Street Thursday, as specialty stores flexed their muscle in the make-or-break December retail deluge.

The group was led by

American Eagle

( AEOS), which said same-store results were up more than 32% from December 2003, about twice the consensus estimate.

The clothing chain, whose stock rose 188% in 2004, raised its earnings estimate for the current quarter to $1.30 or $1.31 a share, up from its old forecast of $1.08 to $1.10 a share. Shares gained $1.23, or 2.6%, to $49.15 Thursday morning.

Urban Outfitters


also had a big month, with overall comps up 16% thanks to strength at all three of its main outlet lines.

Pacific Sunwear


posted December comps of 5.3%, about a percentage point above forecasts.

Urban Outfitters' stock rose 140% last year and slipped 8 cents to $42.70 Thursday despite its report.

Women's clothier



reported an 18.6% jump in year-over-year comps, nearly triple the Wall Street forecast, and declared a 2-for-1 stock split. Chico's overall December sales rose 41.3% from last year to $128.5 million.

Chico's shares were up 24% in 2004 and are up 130% over the past two years.

Teen fave

Abercrombie & Fitch


saw same-store sales surge 10% last month and overall sales skyrocket 24% to $302.1 million. The stock doubled in 2004.




Children's Place





all reported blowout comps and raised earnings guidance.



also had a huge month, with same-store sales up 9% from a year ago, easily beating Wall Street estimates for a 5% gain.

Jos. A Bank


saw comps rise 16.2% and raised its full-year earnings estimate.

For the country's biggest store, results were as expected.



said December comps rose 3% from a year ago, boosted by a 5.4% rise at Sam's Club. Wal-Mart put January same-store sales growth at 2% to 4%.



posted a better-than-expected 3.1% gain in same-store results but said fourth-quarter earnings were trending weakly. At the



, same-store sales unexpectedly dipped 1% on a 7% slide in overseas results.

Ann Taylor


said overall same-store sales fell by 1.5% in December, a significantly better result than Wall Street predicted, thanks to a nearly 7% gain at its Ann Taylor Loft unit. The company affirmed earnings guidance.

J.C. Penney


reported a 1.2% decline in December comps, stronger than expected, and said fourth-quarter earnings should be at or near the Wall Street consensus of $1.05 a share.

In the other column was

Pier 1


, which reported a nearly 9% decline in same-store sales compared with last year and said earnings in its current quarter will miss estimates by about 30%.

Best Buy's


December same-store sales rose 2.5%, missing estimates. The company blamed weak customer traffic, a theme observed in yesterday's lackluster report from rival

Circuit City





said comps fell 3%, while

Toys R Us

( TOY) said they fell 3.3% in November and December.




said comparable-store sales for November and December fell 0.7% from a year ago due to weakness in its Zales Jewelers flagship. The company cut its quarterly earnings estimate to $1.88 to $1.91 a share.