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Sears Holdings comps down, stock up

Hoffman Estates– Clearly trying to drive its stock price higher, Sears Holdings Corp. said today that despite falling same-store sales during the crucial holiday selling season, it will report a profit of $750 to $830 million, up as much as 16% to 28% from the $648 million it earned during the fourth quarter of 2005.

Since being taken over by owner Edward Lampert, Sears has taken a low public profile, shunning comment, avoiding the press and declining to report monthly same-store sales. But with its stock price off by almost 10% from its 52-week high, Sears put out the good news more than six weeks before it will report fourth-quarter results on March 1.

Liking what it heard, Wall Street gave Sears what it hoped for and pushed its stock price up by $3.26 a share, or 2%, to $169.29 in mid-day trading.

The retailer said Kmart same-store sales declined 1.2% during the nine-week period ended Dec. 30, hampered by lower transaction volumes. Apparel sales, while hurt by unseasonably warm weather, still increased over last year's level. Same-store sales in Sears units fell by 5.6%, hurt by lower lawn and garden and appliance sales, partially offset by an improvement in women's apparel, the company said.

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