Liz Claiborne

(LIZ)

posted fourth-quarter earnings in line with Wall Street's expectations, and reaffirmed its 2001 earnings and sales outlook.

The New York-based retailer, a leading supplier of career outfits for women, said fourth-quarter earnings, before a restructuring charge, were $85.9 million, or 96 cents a share, compared with $76.3 million, or 85 cents a share, in the same period last year. Seventeen analysts polled by

First Call/Thomson Financial

expected earnings of 96 cents a share for the quarter.

Sales were $754.0 million, up from $677.1 million in the year-ago period.

For 2001, Liz Clairborne reaffirmed its previous guidance of 5% to 7% sales growth and an 11% to 13% increase in earnings per share, excluding charges, gains and future stock repurchases. Analysts surveyed by First Call expect full-year 2001 earnings of $4.01 and sales of $3.3 billion. The company reported 2000 earnings of $3.58 a share and full-year sales of $3.1 billion on Thursday.

"For the first and second quarters of 2001, we are optimistic that we can achieve sales increases in the low- to mid-single digits and

earnings per share increases in the upper-single digits, excluding the impact of this year's restructuring charges and special investment gain or any future stock repurchases," the company said.

Liz Claiborne also maintained optimism for sales increases in the "mid- to upper-single digits" for the second half of 2001, as well as earnings-per-share increases in the "low- to mid-teens."