Updated from 8:49 a.m.

Retailers reported mixed sales results for May, with Wal-Mart ( WMT) posting gains.

Wal-Mart ( WMT), the world's biggest retailer and an economic indicator in its own right, said Thursday that sales at stores open more than a year rose 2.1% on the year in May, in line with estimates. However, in the year-earlier period, sales had risen 6.2%. Net sales for May rose 10% to $18.95 billion.

The company said consumers were buying at an uneven pace, spending more after receiving their bimonthly paychecks and less as the weeks wore on. Wal-Mart forecast 2% to 4% growth for same-store sales in June. Its shares were up 1%, or 56 cents, at $54.42 in afternoon trading.

As for the coming months, analysts expressed mixed views for the sector.

"In sum, markdowns are accelerating and will keep a lid on second-quarter margins and earnings. We continue to be neutral weight the group, due to rising inventory levels," said Todd Slater, retail analyst at Lazard.

Mark Miller, a retail analyst at William Blair, disagreed, saying the inventory problem has diminished and that retail results could improve in June, given that bellwether Wal-Mart won't be heavily pressured to cut prices.

Regarding Wal-Mart, Slater said, "Overall results were mixed, with underperformance in the warehouse clubs and outperformance in specialty stores." But, he said, even the "better-than-expected sales were driven by markdowns, which we see continuing at a torrid pace, putting pressure on industry earnings." Lazard offers investment-banking advice to Wal-Mart.

Miller noted, "There were some positives, such as inventories growing faster than sales. That will reduce the risk of Wal-Mart being forced to mark down its prices at a fast pace." William Blair maintains an investment-banking relationship with Wal-Mart.

Meanwhile, Federated ( FD) said same-store sales fell 0.8% for the month, and total sales dropped 1.1% to $1.14 billion. The parent of Macy's and Bloomingdale's expects same-store sales in June to be down 1% to 2%. Federated shares were up 2.5%, or 86 cents, at $35.32 in afternoon trading.

Retailer J.C. Penney ( JCP) said May sales rose 3.2%, beating the company's expectations, with the help of jewelry and children's apparel sales. Total sales grew 1.1% to $2.29 billion. The company maintained its earnings guidance for the second quarter without specifying what that outlook was. Shares were up 3.6%, or 65 cents, at $18.50 in the afternoon.

Same-store sales at Kohl's ( KSS) rose 0.1%, while total sales reached $678.9 million, a gain of 13.9%. Shares were up 1%, or 55 cents, at $54.60 in afternoon trading.

May Department Stores ( MAY), parent of Lord & Taylor and Filene's stores, reported a 3.9% drop in sales at stores open at least a year. Net sales fell 2% to $1.03 billion. Shares were up 1.6%, or 36 cents, at $22.91 in the afternoon. Sears, Roebuck ( S) posted a 1.9% decline in sales. Total sales fell 1.3% to $2.18 billion. Sears expects June same-store sales to fall by a small percentage. Shares were up 7%, or $2.25, at $34.96.

Target ( TGT) posted a 0.7% rise in same-store sales, as total sales grew 7.5% to $3.2 billion. The company expects a "more significant" contribution to earnings in June. Shares were up 0.2%, or 8 cents, at $37.78 in afternoon trading. Costco ( COST) said same-store sales climbed 4% last month. Total sales rose 9% to $3.20 billion. Shares were down 0.9%, or 32 cents, at $37.11.

Gap Shines, Circuit City Slumps

Gap ( GPS) posted a 10% rise in May same-store sales. Total sales rose 14% to $1.1 billion. Shares were down 0.8%, or 15 cents, at $17.95 in the afternoon. Ann Taylor Stores ( ANN) said sales increased 9.4%, while net sales rose 19.1% to $137.4 million. The retailer upped its second-quarter earnings forecast to 39 cents to 41 cents a share, from a range of 35 cents to 37 cents. Shares were up 4.4%, or $1.21, at $28.45.

Circuit City Stores ( CC) said same-store sales dropped 10% in the fiscal first quarter, and that total sales fell 9% to $1.93 billion. The company now predicts it will have a first-quarter loss of 23 cents to 25 cents a share, wider than the 8-cent loss that analysts had expected. Shares were down 4.2%, or 30 cents, at $6.89. Rival Best Buy ( BBY) said first-quarter same-store sales rose 2.2%, beating analysts' forecasts. The company raised its first-quarter profit guidance to a range of 19 cents to 21 cents a share, from 14 cents to 20 cents earlier. Total revenue climbed to $4.67 billion in the first quarter from $4.2 billion a year earlier. Shares were up 6.2%, or $2.49, at $42.96 in teh afternoon.

At Pier 1 Imports ( PIR), May same-store sales slipped 1.8%, while total sales grew 6.3% to $132 million. The company now expects earnings of 20 cents to 21 cents a share for the first quarter ended May 31. First-quarter sales were up 4.8%, and comparable-store sales declined by 3.6%. Shares were down 0.3%, or 7 cents, at $20.98.

Pacific Sunwear's ( PSUN) comp sales increased 13.2%, and overall sales rose 22.2% to $61.1 million. Based on May sales, the company raised its second-quarter earnings guidance to 20 cents from 19 cents. For the full fiscal year, Pacific Sunwear is "comfortable" with earnings of $1.26 a share. Shares were up 3.1%, or 71 cents, at $23.93in afternoon trading.

Limited Inches Up

Elsewhere, Limited Brands ( LTD) said same-store sales rose 1%. Net sales were $618.1 million, up from $599.4 million last year. Talbots ( TLB) reported a same-store sales decline of 5%. Total company sales climbed 2% for the month to $115.9 million. Shares were up 1.2%, or 18 cents, at $15.73.

Same-store sales at Big Lots ( BLI), which cover stores open at least two years at the start of the fiscal year, showed a 0.3% gain. Overall sales were $287.8 million, a 5% increase. Shares were down 0.7%, or 10 cents, at $14.35 inthe afternoon.

Aeropostale ( ARO) said same-store sales fell 1.5% last month, but was up against a 19.1% gain in May 2002. Total sales for the four weeks ended May 31 rose 29.2% to $34.5 million. Shares were up 6%, or $1.28, at $22.92. Hot Topic ( HOTT), a retailer of apparel and accessories for teens, said same-store sales rose 3.2% in May. Total sales jumped 25% to $31.2 million. Shares were up 5.2%, or $1.38, at $27.98.

At Guess? ( GES), comparable sales rose 10.3%. Total sales reached $29.9 million, up 18.7% from a year ago. Shares were up 20%, or $1.06, at $6.36. Consolidated May comp sales at American Eagle Outfitters ( AEOS) rose 0.4%. Overall sales for the four-week period ended May 31 climbed 12.2% to $97.6 million. Shares were up 6.8%, or $1.22, at $19.28.

Men's Wearhouse ( MW) posted a same-store sales gain of 7.6% at its U.S. stores last month. Net sales for May rose 8.5% to $111.9 million. Shares were up 5%, or 95 cents, at $21.03.

-- Chris Nichols contributed to this story.

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