Ross Stores, Inc. (ROST) reported earnings per share for the second quarter ended July 30, 2016 of $.71, a 13% increase on top of an 11% gain in the prior year. Net earnings for the current year period grew to $282 million, up from $259 million last year. Sales for the 2016 second quarter rose 7% to $3.181 billion, with comparable store sales up 4% on top of 4% growth in the prior year.
For the first six months of fiscal 2016, earnings per share were $1.44, up 9% on top of a 15% increase last year. Net earnings were $573 million, up from $541 million in the prior year. Sales for the first half of 2016 rose 6% to $6.270 billion, with comparable store sales up 3% versus a 5% gain in the same period last year.
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Barbara Rentler, Chief Executive Officer, commented, «Both sales and earnings results in the second quarter were ahead of our forecast. Higher merchandise gross margin during the quarter drove a 50 basis point increase in operating margin to 14.4%, up from 13.9% in the same period last year.»
Ms. Rentler continued, «During the second quarter and first six months of fiscal 2016, we repurchased 3.1 million and 6.2 million shares of common stock, respectively, for an aggregate price of $176 million in the quarter and $352 million year-to-date. As planned, we expect to buy back a total of $700 million in common stock during fiscal 2016 to complete the two-year $1.4 billion authorization approved by our Board of Directors in February 2015.»
Looking ahead, Ms. Rentler said, «For the third quarter ending October 29, 2016, we are forecasting a same store sales gain of 1% to 2% on top of a 3% increase in the prior year, and earnings per share of $.52 to $.55, compared to $.53 in last year’s third quarter. For the fourth quarter ending January 28, 2017, we are also projecting same store sales to grow 1% to 2% versus a 4% increase last year, with earnings per share expected to be $.73 to $.76, up from $.66 in the 2015 fourth quarter. Based on our first half results and second half guidance, fiscal 2016 earnings per share are now planned to increase 7% to 10% to $2.69 to $2.75, on top of a 14% gain last year.»
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