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Retailers' Q2s May Be OK

Amid the pile of downbeat sales reports for July from retailers, there was a sliver of hope: Second-quarter profits may not be as bad as expected when merchants such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Macy's Inc. and J.C. Penney Co. post their results starting this week.

Several companies, from Gap Inc. and Penney to teen retailer Hot Topic Inc., raised their outlooks last week — with help from strict inventory controls and slashing expenses — even as they reported sales declines in July at established stores.

Still, retailers overall are expected to report a fifth consecutive drop in quarterly earnings, according to Ken Perkins, president of research company RetailMetrics LLC. Worries abound about how merchants will stem the erosion of their profits as they confront what could be a deeper spending funk in the critical months ahead.

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