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Stocks to Watch Thursday

December sales tallies from Macy’s, Gap and other retailers are expected to show whether concerns about a weak holiday season proved to be correct. Many analysts expected sales growth to be weaker this holiday season than in recent years, and the weakness may have been exacerbated by Superstorm Sandy and other issues holding shoppers back. The sales figures will be the most detailed look yet at results from retailers, which largely will not report their quarterly results until mid-February. Chains still have January to boost results, as they try to lure gift card recipients and others to buy new merchandise.

Barnes & Noble, the largest U.S. bookstore chain, releases a detailed holiday sales report following a warning last week that they will come in under the bookseller’s expectations. Barnes & Noble also will update investors on how far short of expectations sales of its Nook e-reader and e-books business, on which the company has bet its future, fell in a season that saw the device compete with Amazon’s Kindle and Apple’s iPad.

Family Dollar Stores posts fiscal first-quarter results. The discount chain, which has more than 7,500 stores in 45 states, has been selling more food and other basic goods as shoppers seek out low-priced necessities. Back in October, it forecast a profit of 69 cents to 78 cents per share for the quarter, which began on Aug. 26 and therefore does not include the bulk of the holiday shopping season.


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