Nordstrom

(JWN) - Get Report

on Tuesday reported a 34% jump in fourth-quarter earnings, powered by stronger-than-expected sales and better profit margins.

The upscale clothing chain said it earned $140 million, or $1 a share, for the quarter, up from the $104 million, or 74 cents a share, in the same quarter one year ago. Excluding a noncash expense of $4.7 million, or 3 cents a share, related to a correction in the company's lease accounting policy, Nordstrom earned $144.7 million, or $1.03 a share, beating Wall Street's expectations by a penny.

For the first quarter, the company expects low-single-digit same-store sales growth and earnings in the range of 62 cents to 67 cents a share, in line with expectations. For all of fiscal 2005, it expects earnings of $3.25 to $3.35 a share, while Wall Street is expecting $3.23 a share, according to consensus estimates reported by Thomson First Call.

For the fourth quarter, Nordstrom said its sales increased 9.4%, to a record $2.1 billion, compared with sales of $1.9 billion in the same period last year. Same-store sales, those at stores open at least a year, increased 7.2%, exceeding the company's plan with increases in all geographic regions.

Meanwhile, Nordstrom's gross profit margin increased 40 basis points, and its selling costs were reduced by 160 basis points as a percentage of sales.

For fiscal 2004, the company's net earnings increased 62% to $393.5 million, or $2.77 a share, up from last year's $242.8 million, or $1.76 a share. Total sales increased 10.6% to $7.1 billion, while same-store sales increased 8.5%.

During the quarter, the company repurchased 5 million shares of common stock for a total of $225 million, increasing its earnings by 4 cents a share for the quarter and 3 cents a share for the year. Its board of directors approved a quarterly dividend of 13 cents a share payable on March 15 to shareholders of record on Feb. 28. It also opened two new stores in the U.S. and plans to open one more in the current quarter and relocate another.

Shares of Nordstrom were recently trading down 6 cents, or 0.1%, to $51.50 in after-hours trading. During regular trading hours Tuesday, the stock gained 81 cents, or 1.6%, to $51.56.