Apparel and accessory design company

Liz Claiborne

(LIZ)

posted a rise in second-quarter earnings Thursday and increased its full-year earnings forecast above analysts' estimates.

The company's shares were recently up $2.06, or 6%, to $36.20.

The company now expects to earn $2.83 a share in 2004 vs. the consensus for $2.77 a share, and up from a prior estimate for $2.79 a share. Shares of the company were moving up $1.70, or 5%, to $35.84 in Thursday trading.

In its second quarter ended July 5, Liz earned $50.6 million, or 46 cents a share, above the consensus expectations for 43 cents a share. That compared to $44.6 million, or 41 cents a share, in the year-earlier period.

Sales increased 6.9% to $1.03 billion. The acquisition of Enyce, completed in December, added $17 million to total sales, while favorable currency exchange contributed $12 million to sales.

Retail net sales rose 19.5% to $264 million. The company cited the strong fashion cycle, increased full price sell-throughs and conservative inventory planning. Consequently, the company had less clearance merchandise and reduced markdowns during the quarter.

As a result, gross profit expanded to 47.7% as a percent of sales, up from 44.4% in the year-earlier period.

The addition of several new stores in the last year has also boosted New York-based Liz's sales, including 10 new Lucky Brand stores and 16 Sigrid Olsen specialty stores.

Looking to the third quarter, the company expects earnings of $1 to $1.02 a share, ahead of the consensus for 98 cents a share. Sales are seen up 9% to 10%.

Total sales in 2004 are expected to rise 7% to 8%, Liz said. Analysts are expecting $4.52 billion in revenue.

Aside from its namesake brand, Liz also operates the Juicy Couture, Mexx, Ellen Tracy and Dana Buchman brands and licenses DKNY jeans, among others.