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Kohl's Gives Soft Outlook

The retailer posts in-line fourth-quarter results, but its forecast falls below analyst estimates.
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Kohl's (KSS) - Get Kohl's Corporation (KSS) Report posted fourth-quarter earnings in line with its tempered targets, but the department-store operator joined fellow retailers in offering a soft outlook for the current period.

The Menomonee Falls, Wis.-based company said Thursday that its fourth-quarter profits fell to $411.7 million, or $1.31 a share, down from $484.6 million, or $1.48 a share, a year earlier.

The profit decline comes after a holiday season that was disappointing across the retail sector, as shoppers reined in spending amid economic headwinds. Kohl's had originally projected earnings of $1.45 to $1.51 a share for the fourth quarter, but later took down that forecast and projected earnings at the low end of a $1.30 to $1.34 range.

Analysts polled by Thomson Financial most recently expected earnings of $1.30 a share.

Sales edged up to $5.49 billion from $5.45 billion. Same-store sales, which factor out the loss of one week in the quarter, fell 0.8%.

Looking ahead, the company forecast earnings of $3.15 to $3.50 a share for the new year, below Wall Street's projection of $3.52. Kohl's sees first-quarter earnings of 50 cents to 54 cents a share, also below analysts' 56-cent target.

"We expect 2008 to be a challenging year from a macro-economic perspective," said Chairman and CEO Larry Montgomery. "We are planning conservatively in our sales expectations, inventory levels and expenses."

Retailers as a whole have largely been managing to meet or top Wall Street's lackluster forecasts for the fourth quarter, but many companies -- ranging from

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-- have issued weaker-than-expected guidance for the current year as they project more economic troubles ahead.

Shares of Kohl's were down $1.26, or 2.8%, to $43.98 in after-hours trading. The stock lost 3.5% in the regular session.

This article was written by a staff member of TheStreet.com.