Despite the recession's dampening effect on retail sales, two large Washington-area shopping-center developers reported sharply higher earnings yesterday.

Rouse Co. of Columbia, developer of such projects as Baltimore's Harborplace and Boston's Fanueil Hall Marketplace, said second-quarter earnings soared 117 percent, while Federal Realty Investment Trust, which owns 20 shopping centers, reported a 73 percent rise in income from continuing operations in the second quarter.

Rouse said it earned $1.99 million (13 cents a share) in the quarter, up from $919,000 (6 cents) a year ago. Revenues rose 17.7 percent to $39.1 million from $33.2 million. For the first half of the year, Rouse's income was $3.7 million (25 cents) compared with $1.6 million (11 cents) a year ago. Revenues rose to $76.4 million from $64.1 million.

In addition to improved results from its retail operations, Rouse said its results were aided by its sale late last year of $36 million in common stock to a group of Canadian investors. Part of the proceeds were used to reduce the company's debt, resulting in lower interest costs, and the remainder has been invested, producing additional income.

Rouse also announced yesterday that it had acquired the Oakwood Shopping Center in New Orleans for an undisclosed amount. The center's tenants include Sears and D.H. Holmes department stores, as well as 285,000 square feet of space for smaller stores.

Federal Realty said it earned $679,000 (33 cents) on continuing operations in the second quarter, up, from $393,000 (20 cents) a year ago. Net income for the quarter last year totaled $1.05 million (54 cents) because of a one-time gain from the sale of property. Revenue in the quarter rose 6 percent to $3.6 million from $3.4 million.

Federal Realty said its first-half income from continuing operationS rose 64 percent to $1.4 million (71 cents) from $858,000 (44 cents). The property sale last year brought net income for the year-ago half to $1.5 million (78 cents). Revenues for the first six months went up 8 percent to $7.6 million from $7.1 million