(By Balaseshan) Ross Stores Inc. (NASDAQ: ROST) said its comparable store sales for the month of January grew 4% on top of last year's 5% gain. Further, the operator of off-price apparel and home fashion chain raised fourth quarter and fiscal 2012 guidance, and issued forecast for first quarter and fiscal 2013.
Sales increased 39% to $672 million for the five weeks ended February 2, 2013, from $483 million for the four weeks ended January 28, 2012.
Comparable store sales for the 13 weeks ended January 26, 2013 were up 5% over a 7% increase last year. For the 14 weeks ended February 2, 2013, sales rose 15% to $2.761 billion from $2.398 billion for the 13 weeks ended January 28, 2012, while Street had predicted $2.74 billion.
The company said its board of directors recently approved the repurchase of up to $1.1 billion of its common stock over the next two years through fiscal 2014. At recent stock prices, the new authorization represents about 8% of its total market value and a 22% increase over the prior two-year $900 million authorization that was completed in January 2013.
The board also raised the quarterly cash dividend to $0.17 per share, up 21% on top of a 27% increase in the prior year. The dividend is payable on March 29 to stockholders of record as of February 22.
For the fourth quarter, the company raised its earnings per share (EPS) guidance to range of $1.06 to $1.07 from previous forecast of $1.05 to $1.06, while Street predicts $1.06.
For the fiscal 2012, Ross Stores lifted its EPS outlook to range of $3.52 to $3.53 from previous estimate of $3.36 to $3.44, while Street predicts $3.52.
For the first quarter of fiscal 2013, the company guides EPS of $1.00 to $1.04, while Street predicts $1.05. Comparable store sales for the first quarter are forecast to increase 1% to 2%, on top of 9% and 3% gains in 2012 and 2011, respectively.
For the fiscal 2013, Ross Stores projects EPS of $3.65 to $3.80, while analysts predict $3.91. Same store sales are anticipated to grow 1% to 2%, on top of robust 6% and 5% increases in the prior two years, respectively.
ROST is trading up 2.20% at $60.41 on Thursday. The stock has been trading between $50.97 and $70.82 for the past 52 weeks.