Specialty retailers got hit hard Thursday after a disappointing round of February sales results and signs of uncertainty coming out of the holiday quarter. While discounting chains and department stores fared reasonably well, sales shortfalls from Wall Street darlings such as Abercrombie & Fitch ( ANF) and Chico's ( CHS) weighed on the market and sent momentum traders scrambling for cover. Pacific Growth Equities analyst Christine Chen says there may be some overreaction in the market's response to the disappointment. "January surprised on the upside when there was good weather and everyone praised the consumer," Chen says. "Now we get a surprise on the downside after there was a big snowstorm in the Northeast, and everyone is predicting doom and gloom. You have to remember that last year, February was a very strong month, and many companies were up against very high comparisons." Thomson First Call reported that 59% of retailers missed Wall Street's estimates, and the bulk of the disappointments came from specialty chains. Abercrombie, which was widely viewed as a holiday standout for fickle teen shoppers, said its same-store sales, or comps, rose 5.9% from a year ago, below analysts' average prediction for 13.9% growth. Its shares recently were down $7.10, or 10.6%, to $60.15. Chico's, which caters to women of the so-called baby boomer generation, said late Wednesday that its comps rose 5.7%, missing analysts' forecast for a gain of 8.7%. The company's fourth-quarter earnings missed Wall Street's consensus estimate by a penny, and it warned that rising expenses could weigh on gross margins in 2006. It projected margin declines between 10 and 50 basis points in the first half of the year, with less of an impact in the second half. Chico's shares recently were down $6.64, or 13.9%, to $41.12. Gap's ( GPS) sales woes continued as it reported its same-store sales plunged 11% because of weak traffic at its Banana Republic and Old Navy divisions. The decline was roughly twice as bad as analysts had projected. Its shares recently were down 49 cents, or 2.6%, to $18.17.