By Phil Wahba
(Reuters) - Costco Wholesale Corp
Consumer confidence has dipped, in part because of slow employment growth, and shoppers have gravitated toward bargains in recent months.
A group of eight U.S. retailers reported an overall 3 percent increase in sales at stores open at least a year, better than analysts' forecasts of 2 percent, according to Thomson Reuters data.
The Standard & Poor's Retail Index <.SPXRT> was down 1 percent on Thursday, while the broad S&P 500 stock index <.SPX> fell 0.5 percent.
Costco reported a slightly bigger-than-expected 3 percent gain in same-store sales. Fresh food was among its best-selling products, and the weakest category was consumer electronics.
L. Brands said its same-store sales were up 8 percent, well above the 2.2 percent gain Wall Street analysts were expecting, according to Thomson Reuters.
The 16-day U.S. government shutdown at the start of the month weighed on consumer confidence and slowed job growth. U.S. job growth probably slowed sharply in October, with the unemployment rate ticking higher, according a Reuters survey of economists published this week.
The International Council of Shopping Centers is forecasting same-store sales will rise 3 percent to 4 percent in November, in part because the shutdown has ended, eliminating one source of consumer anxiety, Chief Economist Michael Niemira said. But the trade group still expects only modest growth this holiday season.
Many retailers noted worrisome patterns as retailers head into the holiday season.
Drugstore chains Walgreen Co
J.C. Penney Co Inc
"We expect the holiday season to be extremely competitive," Penney Chief Executive Officer Myron Ullman said in a statement.
Cool weather helped some retailers, such as low-priced clothing chain Cato Corp
But Cato also said it expected a tough holiday quarter, as did teen chain Abercrombie & Fitch Co
Morgan Stanley last week issued a research note forecasting the weakest holiday season since 2008, when the financial crisis decimated retail sales.
Perfume maker Coty Inc
(Reporting by Phil Wahba in New York; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)