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Five Below Inc.  (FIVE - Get Report) shares traded sharply higher Thursday after the discount retailer posted stronger-than-expected fourth quarter earnings and forecast solid comparable sales heading into the spring season.

Five Below said earnings for the three months ending on February 2, the company's fiscal fourth quarter, came in at $1.59 per share, up 31.4% from the same period last year and a penny ahead of the Street consensus forecast. Group sales, Five Below said, rose 19.4% to $602.6 million, just ahead of the $601 million estimate, while same-store sales grew at a 4.4% clip thanks in part to stronger demand for low-priced toys.

Looking into 2019, Five Below said it sees earnings in the range of $3.00 to $3.07 per share, just shy of the $3.13 forecast complied by Refinitiv, with comparable sales growth of 3% and net revenues of around $1.865 billion to $1.885 billion. Comparable first quarter 2019 sales, the company said, should match match the holiday pace of around 4%.

"We believe we're in a great position for 2019," CEO Joel Anderson told investors on a conference call late Wednesday. "Overall, we continue to make disciplined investments to further strengthen our foundation and support the growth and scaling of Five Below."

"We remain committed to our key strategic priorities and we'll continue to invest in our stores, merchandising, marketing, people, systems, and infrastructure," he added. "Our goal is to continue to innovate and provide an amazing differentiated store experience and, in doing so, we aim to attract and wow new customers and, just as importantly, increase our existing customers' already strong brand loyalty to Five Below."

Five below shares were up 7.2% Thursday at $128.65  each, a move that would extend the stock's year-to-date gain to around 21% and value the Philadelphia-based group at just over $7 billion.

"We were also very encouraged by management's F1Q 2019 comparable sales growth guidance
given the fact several other retailers' forecasts have come up short," said Loop Capital analyst Anthony Chukumba, who has a 'buy' rating on the stock with a $145.00 price target. "Five Below remains one of our favorite long ideas in our coverage universe, and we believe the stock is increasingly becoming a "must own" for midcap growth investors in the retail sector."