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First-quarter earnings at



rose a better-than-expected 9% from a year ago, buoyed by the success of its domestic jewelry operations.

The company said its full-year guidance remains intact, as long as sales don't further deteriorate in perennial soft-spot Japan.

Tiffany earned $40.1 million, or 27 cents a share, in the quarter, compared with $36.8 million, or 25 cents a share, a year ago. Sales rose 12% from a year ago to $509.9 million, reflecting a 14% jump in U.S. retail sales to $243.4 million and a 3% rise in international retail sales to $190.3 million.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call were forecasting earnings of 24 cents a share on sales of $493.7 million in the most recent quarter. The company reiterated full-year guidance of $1.45 to $1.55 a share but said earnings could be at the low end of the range if Japan same-store sales fell by a percentage in the single digits.

In the first quarter, same-store sales rose 11% in the U.S., reflecting balanced performance at its New York flagship store and around the country. International same-store sales fell 6% in constant currency, reflecting a 10% decline in Japan, a 5% increase elsewhere in Asia Pacific, and a 3% dip in Europe.

"We are justifiably enthusiastic about Tiffany's growth potential in the U.S. and in many international markets. We are more cautious about Japan, but continue to address weakness in that market with product development initiatives and focused marketing," the company said.

Tiffany closed Thursday at $29.77.