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Federated Posts Big Beat

It earns 71 cents a share in the quarter on a 2.5% rise in sales.
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Federated

, the largest U.S. department store operator, beat earnings estimates for its first quarter, boosted by strong demand for spring fashions.

The company, which operates Macy's and Bloomingdale's, earned $123 million for the quarter, or 71 cents a share, up from $97 million, or 53 cents a share, in the same quarter last year. Analysts were expecting earnings of only 67 cents a share, according to consensus estimates reported by Thomson First Call.

Last week, Federated raised its first-quarter earnings outlook to a 65 cents to 70 cents per share range from 45 cents to 50 cents per share.

Shares of Federated were recently trading up 40 cents, or 0.7%, to $64.35 in premarket trading.

"We obviously were very pleased with the quarter's results and our above-expectations sales performance, especially since these comparisons are against a strong first quarter last year," the company said.

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Sales for the quarter totaled $3.605 billion, up 2.5% from last year's $3.517 billion. On a same-store basis, Federated's year-to-date sales were up 2.6%. It opened no new stores in the first quarter of 2005.

Looking ahead, Federated expects second-quarter earnings in a range from 80 cents to 85 cents a share. The forecast was consistent with Wall Street's expectations, with analysts predicting earnings of 83 cents a share.

Earlier this year, Federated agreed to buy its chief rival,

May Department Stores

(MAY)

, in an $11 billion deal that is still pending. May, which operates Lord & Taylor and Filene's, posted a 46% drop in first-quarter earnings late Tuesday, continuing its struggles of late.

May earned $41 million for the quarter, or 13 cents a share. That compares with $76 million, or 24 cents a share, a year earlier. Its sales rose 13.7% to $3.37 billion.