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PhillyInc rings up higher profits for Charming Shoppes

The operator of the Fashion Bug and Lane Bryant chains had a big increase in first-quarter profits while sales were flat.

Charming Shoppes, the Bensalem women's apparel retailer, reported a ginormous increase in net income for its first quarter on flat sales. Net sales were $504M, while net income was $26M, or 22 cents per share. (NI for Q1 2010 was $3.9M, or 3 cents.) Another sign of financial health: the company has "shifted from a net debt position to a net cash position," according to CFO Eric Specter.

Still CEO Anthony Romano noted that consumers are feeling the strain of higher food and gas prices, cutting disposable income for clothes at Lane Bryant and Fashion Bug stores. And Charming Shoppes is dealing with its own inflation. Here's what Romano said in the press release:

Sharp increases in cotton-based raw materials pricing were a modest factor in our first quarter results, but will have a greater impact for Fall and Holiday.

In other earnings news, Met-Pro, the Harleysville maker of pollution control equipment, reported a 5 percent rise in net sales for its Q1 and flat net income at $1.4M, or 10 cents per share.

Blue Bell-based UniTek Global Services has won a 3-year, $30M contract to build and maintain a telecommunications carrier's network. Whose? The company didn't say in its news release.

Meanwhile, Hill International, the Marlton construction project management firm, received a 15-month, $2.9M contract to manage the building of a huge wind farm in Brazil. Whose? New Energy Options Geracao de Energia, Hill says.

After the thud that was Wednesday's stock market when $400B in market cap evaporated, you can be forgiven for not wanting to check in 2, 3, 4 times a day on how stocks are doing. So do your blood pressure a favor and take a break from the ticker today.

But pay attention Friday when the Labor Department issues its monthly employment report. While economists have been ratcheting back their expectations, surprise seems to be in the air this week.