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) -- Retailers will be the focus of Thursday's session, with same-store sales data expected from companies including


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JC Penney

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Last month's sales results are expected to pour in ahead of Thursday's opening bell, with analysts expecting an overall decline of 1.1%, according to Thomson Reuters. While that number would be the best showing in 2009, it would mark 13 straight months of same-store sales declines and would be worse than the 0.9% dip last September.

"For sales comps, there is no such thing as 'less worse,' " writes Thomson Reuters analyst Jharonne Martis, in a research note. "Slipping deeper into a hole, especially after appearing to have hit bottom, with no where to go but up, does not bode well for retailers."

While discount and department stores are expected to show another monthly decline, analysts expect teen and child apparel shops to once again post the largest same-store sales decline.

Abercrombie & Fitch

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probably saw overall sales fall 14% last month,

Wet Seal


should see a decline of 9%, and

American Eagle Outfitters

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probably will report a 7% decline for September, according to Thomson Reuters.

In other corporate news, the earnings schedule is light Thursday, with


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among only a handful of companies reporting. In addition, investors will also be reacting to earnings released late Wednesday from


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Ruby Tuesday




late Wednesday reported a surprise third-quarter profit of 77 million, or 8 cents a share. Excluding items, the company earned 4 cents a share in the quarter, compared to analysts' expectations that the company would lose 9 cents a share in the quarter. Alcoa's report unofficially kicks off the third-quarter earnings reporting season.

Turning to the day's economic data, the Labor Department will release weekly initial jobless claims data at 8:30 a.m. EDT. Those claims are expected to dip to 540,000 from 551,000 the week before. Later, at 10 a.m. EDT, the Census Bureau will release the August read on wholesale inventories, which should fall 1% after a 1.4% slide in July.

-- Written by Robert Holmes in New York