Ross Stores, Inc. (ROST) today reported earnings per share for the third quarter ended October 28, 2017 of $.72, a 16% increase from $.62 last year. Net earnings grew to $274 million, up from $245 million in the prior year. Third quarter sales rose 8% to $3.3 billion, with comparable store sales up 4% on top of a robust 7% increase last year.

For the first nine months of fiscal 2017, earnings per share were $2.36, up 15% on top of an 11% gain last year. Net earnings were $912 million, compared to $817 million in the prior year. Sales year-to-date rose 8% to $10.1 billion, with comparable store sales up 4% versus a 4% gain in the same period last year.

Barbara Rentler, Chief Executive Officer, commented, “Our third quarter sales and earnings outperformed our expectations despite being up against our toughest prior year comparisons and two major hurricanes during the quarter. We are pleased with these strong results, which reflect our continued market share gains in a challenging retail environment. Operating margin of 13.3% was better-than-expected, mainly due to a combination of higher merchandise margin and leverage on above-plan sales.”

Ms. Rentler continued, “During the third quarter and first nine months of fiscal 2017, we repurchased 3.6 million and 10.5 million shares of common stock, respectively, for an aggregate price of $219 million in the quarter and $649 million year-to-date. We remain on track to buy back a total of $875 million in common stock during fiscal 2017 under the two-year $1.75 billion authorization approved by our Board of Directors in February of this year.”

Looking ahead, Ms. Rentler said, “Given our better-than-expected trends in the third quarter, we are raising our sales expectations for the fourth quarter. For the 13 weeks ending January 27, 2018, comparable store sales are now forecast to increase 2% to 3% versus a 4% gain last year. Earnings per share for the 14 weeks ending February 3, 2018 are projected to be $.88 to $.92, up from $.77 in the prior year period. Based on this updated guidance and our year-to-date results, we are now planning earnings per share for fiscal 2017 to be in the range of $3.24 to $3.28. As a reminder, both our fourth quarter and full year guidance include an approximate $.08 benefit to earnings per share from the 53rd week in fiscal 2017.”

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