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reported a 23% jump in third-quarter profit, handily topping estimates, although its sales missed the mark.

Nonetheless, Target predicted holiday sales will reach their highest level in three years.

During the quarter, the discounter earned $535 million, or 74 cents a share, compared with $436 million, or 58 cents, in the year-ago period. Analysts were calling for a profit of 68 cents a share.

Target received a boost from improvement in its credit card business and strong food sales.

Target's sales rose 3% to $15.2 billion, while its same-store sales increased 1.6%. Wall Street predicted sales of $5.61 billion.

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Looking ahead, Target is hoping to receive a boost from its new loyalty program. "Based on our merchandising and marketing plans, combined with the expected impact of REDcard rewards and our newly completed remodel program, we expect Target's fourth quarter comparable-store performance will be the best of any quarter in the last three years," CEO Gregg Steinhafel said in a statement.

--Written by Jeanine Poggi in New York.

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