Analyst Peter Benedict says third quarter earnings per share beat his estimate by two cents. He notes the results are strong across the board, with comparisons up 8%, and gross margins up 31 basis points to 41.3%, and operating margins up 170 basis points to 12.7%, above expectations. Benedict says management has indicated it is comfortable with earnings per share estimates of 33 cents for the fourth quarter and 98 cents for fiscal 2003 (Feb.), and $1.18 for fiscal 2004.
He says he thinks management's forward guidance is conservative, so he raised his 96 cents fiscal 2002 earnings per share estimate to 99 cents and upped the $1.17 fiscal 203 to $1.20. He continues to believe the company is among the better retailers. He maintains his sector perform rating and $38 target.