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Ross Stores earning jump 20%

Pleasanton, Calif. -- Lower inventories, faster turns and fewer markdowns led Ross Stores to a 20% jump in earnings per share during the first quarter.

EPS was 72 cents, with profit for the quarter ended May 3 up 17% to $91.4 million.

Sales rose 9% to $1.69 billion, “well ahead of our plan,” said Michael Balmuth, vice chairman, president and ceo, during this morning’s conference call with analysts.

Although executives cautioned about the challenging economic climate, Ross was sufficiently encouraged to raise its guidance for the second quarter and full year.

For the second quarter ending Aug. 1, Ross now expects same-store sales to be flat to down 1%, on top of a 6% gain in the prior year. Previously, Ross had forecast a mid-single-digit percentage decline.

The 922-unit off-pricer also raised its comp guidance for the second half of this year from relatively flat to up 2% to 3%, compared to a 1% decline in the same period last year.

Based on the updated sales targets, Ross is projecting second-quarter earnings per share in the range of 60 cents to 63 cents, versus 54 cents in the prior year period. For the full fiscal year, earnings per share are now forecast to be in the range of $2.62 to $2.72. The company initially projected fiscal earnings per share of $2.25 to $2.45 compared to EPS of $2.33 last year.

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