NEW YORK CITY-Many analysts forecasting March’s year-over-year same-store are saying they expect modest results when most figures are released on Thursday. Their predictions are in part based on an Easter calendar shift, with the holiday falling in April this year instead of March, as was the case in 2005.

The International Council of Shopping Centers’ research team, which will post its monthly-sales survey later this week, predicts a 2% to 2.5% year-over-year increase. For the week ended April 1, ICSC calculated a 2.4% rise, down from 2.7% the previous week.

A Bear Stearns research note points out that gas prices are up 17% from last year and could impact spending habits. “We also expect that Target and Wal-Mart are likely to be impacted most by the later holiday because they sell both food and seasonal merchandise,” the note says.

In the department-store sector, Bear Stearns predicts a 3% to 5% increase for Nordstrom, and 1% to 3% gains for both J.C. Penney and Kohl’s. From Federated Department Stores, the country’s largest chain in the category, the firm forecasts flat sales.

Lehman Brothers has downgraded its estimates for department stores from 2.4% to 1.9%. “We believe that retailers performance in March will be in line to slightly below expectations, with an estimated 1.9% comp representing the slowest month since the 1.6% comp in November 2004,” a report says. It estimated a 2% to 4% jump for Kohl’s and tightened its estimate for Target to 1.5% to 2.5% from 1% to 3%.

Lehman’s predictions for dollar stores are mixed. The firm sees a 3.7% jump for Family Dollar, a 2% drop for Dollar General and flat results for Fred’s.

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