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Retail & Earnings: Winners, Losers — and Why

September same store sales are in, and the vast majority have to be pleasantly surprised... How surprised? Overall September same store sales are up 2.7 percent, versus expectations of 2.3 percent, according to RetailMetrics.

Teen retailers were especially strong: 1) Abercrombie & Fitch up 13 percent, well above expectations, was trading up 7 percent pre-open. American Eagle sales up 4 percent, better than the loss expected, and guided higher for the third quarter, now above consensus; Aeropostale reported sales up 3 percent, better than the 2 percent loss expected; Zumiez sales were up 17 percent, much better than 12.4 percent expected, they too guided higher.

Department stores also did well: Nordstrom's , Saks were better than expected. JC Penney reported sales up 5.1 percent, better than expected, and said back to school experienced "better-than-expected sales."

Limited , up 12 percent, well above expectations of up 3.7 percent, Victoria's Secret especially strong, up 13 percent, Bath & Body up 11 percent.

There were only a few disappointments: Target said September was "near the low end of our expectations." They highlighted their new REDcard Rewards program that gives customers 5 percent off when they use a Target credit or debit card.

Another disappointment: Gap missed, down 2 percent, 0.2 percent gain expected. September was "more challenging than we anticipated."

But they were exceptions. Bottom line: when you have a catalyst like back to school, shoppers come out. Without that, they don't.

Elsewhere:

A number of cautious corporate outlooks are in the spotlight today just as earnings season officially kicks off after the close today with Dow component Alcoa reporting Q3 results.

1) PepsiCo is down 3 percent. Earnings were inline with estimates as stronger-than-expected sales and higher margins helped. Results were supported by strong beverage volumes in the Americas, Europe and Asia. That was partially offset by volume declines in its North American snacks businesses.

Looking ahead, the company lowers the upper end of its earnings guidance. It now sees earnings of $4.12-$4.16 this year, below estimates of $4.17.

2) Marriott falls 5 percent despite reporting Q3 earnings at the high end of its prior forecast and inline with Street estimates. Greater travel from both business customers and vacationers boosted demand and enabled the hotel chain to successfully increase rates. RevPAR rose 8.2 percent in the quarter — slightly higher than its own expectations, as double-digit growth in Asia led the way.

The problem for shareholders: earnings guidance for the current quarter is quite conservative ($0.33-$0.36 vs. $0.36 consensus); however, the company expects even stronger performance next year "as demand and pricing continue to strengthen."

3) Samsung's weak outlook may send jitters to shareholders of other electronics makers like Sony and Panasonic . The maker of TVs, mobile phones, and memory chips warned Q3 sales and earnings would be below analyst expectations. Headwinds for the company have been weaker demand for flat-panel TVs (as reported by electronics retailer Best Buy last month) and falling memory chip prices — which would ultimately put pressure on its profit margins.

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  • A CNBC reporter since 1990, Bob Pisani covers Wall Street from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

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