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Target Tops Estimates With Earnings Report

Target (NYSE:TGT) beat the estimates of polled Wall Street analysts with its latest earnings report. The company’s reported profit for the third quarter was higher than expected, rising 3.1 percent in the quarter. Target reported earnings of $352 million, or 55 cents a share, for the quarter ended Nov. 1. This was higher than the $341 million, or 54 cents a share, reported for the same quarter a year earlier. In August, Target forecast quarterly earnings of between 40 cents and 50 cents for the third quarter of its fiscal year.

Same store sales increased 1.2 percent over the results reported for the same quarter last year. Sales rose to $17.73 billion in the quarter, 2.8 percent higher than the results for the same quarter last year and topping the $17.56 billion predicted by analysts. Margins fell to 29.5% from 30% a year earlier due to increased promotions and discounting.

Target reported that its United States sales for the quarter were stronger than expected. Increased back to school shopping and Halloween shopping helped the company’s quarterly results. Lower gas prices are also giving consumers more money for other purchases. Target now expects full year per-share earnings of $3.15 to $3.25, narrower than its previous estimate of $3.10 to $3.30.

The reported results must be pleasing to new Chief Executive Brian Cornell, hired from PepsiCo Inc. this summer. The company had been facing a sales slump as customers increasingly found their products uninspiring and fewer new products were introduced. The popularity of online shopping has also been cutting into Target’s bottom line. Fewer consumers are making regular visits to brick and mortar stores as online shopping becomes increasingly convenient. In the third quarter, the number of shopper transactions in the United States decreased 0.4 percent, the eighth straight quarter of decline in the category.

Target has also been facing difficulties in Canada, where the company’s prices have been criticized as excessive and problems with inventory have left shelves empty. In Canada, same store sales rose an anemic 1.6 percent. Target lost $211 million in Canada this past quarter, bringing its losses for the year to more than $2 billion in its Canadian divisions.

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