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Credit Suisse First Boston lowered its estimates on three supermarket chains Thursday, citing a competitive environment and rising wage and benefit costs.

CSFB pared its full-year earnings estimates for





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Albertson's 2002 profit forecast was reduced to $1.97 a share from $2.15 a share, with a 12-month price target of $17. As for Winn-Dixie, CSFB lowered its full-year outlook to $1.38 a share from $1.43 a share, with a price target of $12. CSFB lowered its 2002 outlook on


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to $1.64 a share from $1.66 a share. For fiscal 2003, the firm lowered its EPS estimate to $1.65 from $1.80. The firm also reduced Kroger's price target to $15 from $17.

"Safeway's recent analyst meeting highlighted two major issues for 2003 -- increased price and promotional pressure and increasing wage and benefit costs," analyst Jack Murphy wrote in a research note. "We believe that our previous estimates for 2003 had not yet fully reflected the increased pressures from these sources."

The move comes on the heels of a recent move to slash estimates on three other supermarkets the firm covers, including





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( GAP).

"With this momentum toward increased price competition, it is difficult to make a definitive forecast on where gross margins may bottom in 2003," Murphy noted.

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