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Shares of Bebe fall after analyst downgrade

NEW YORK (AP) -- Shares of Bebe Stores fell after a Janney analyst lowered her rating on the women's clothing retailer, citing "consumer malaise" and sluggish mall traffic.

Analyst Adrienne Tennant lowered her rating to "neutral." A representative for Bebe did not immediately return a call for comment.

Tennant noted that the company's new focus is "on the 'going out' aspect of a woman's life and plays up to the company's body conscious image." While that has a clear point of view, she said it could potentially narrow the company's target market.

For the near term, Tennant said she expects the chain's data measuring growth to remain soft as new management works on "setting the state for improved long-term profitability." She also noted that the mall environment remains challenging and competitive.

Bebe Stores Inc., based in Brisbane, Calif., has about 240 stores and is slated to report its fiscal first-quarter results Thursday.

The stock lost 41 cents, or 6.7 percent, to $5.64 in afternoon trading. The stock hit a 52-week high of $6.22 in late September.