Cost Plus

(CPWM)

posted a modest gain in fourth-quarter earnings on a 16% jump in sales.

The company's results beat Wall Street's expectations by a penny, while its 2004 guidance matched analysts' estimates.

In the holiday quarter, the home products and specialty grocery chain earned $26.69 million, or $1.18 a share, on $312.57 million in sales. In the year-ago period, the retailer earned $25.27 million, or $1.14 a share, on $269.73 million in sales.

Tax credits helped boost Cost Plus' 2002 fourth-quarter results by $1.8 million, or 8 cents a share. Absent those gains, the company would have posted year-over-year earnings per share growth of 10.5%, instead of 3.5%.

Analysts polled by

Reuters'

MultexNet service were expecting the company to earn $1.17 a share on sales of $312.59 million.

In the first quarter, Cost Plus expects to earn $3.3 million, or 14 cents a share, on $188 million in sales. For the full year, the company expects to earn $41.2 million, or $1.78 a share, on sales of $944.7 million.

Wall Street had projected that the company would earn 14 cents a share on sales of $184.95 million in the first quarter, and $1.78 a share on $947.10 million in sales for the full year.

In recent trading, Cost Plus shares were up 36 cents, or 0.9%, to $40.80.