A handful of retailers reported earnings that matched or beat analyst consensus estimates Tuesday and most were confident they could meet existing forecasts for the remainder of the year. Home Depot ( HD), Staples ( SPLS) and Jos. A. Bank ( JOSB) all topped the consensus estimate, while BJ's Wholesale ( BJ) matched it. Atlanta-based Home Depot earned $1.18 billion, or 50 cents a share, in the second quarter, up from $924 million, or 39 cents a share, a year earlier and topping analysts' consensus forecast of 47 cents. Sales rose 12% to $16.3 billion on a 1% rise in same-store sales, a slightly worse-than-expected comp. The company predicted third-quarter earnings of 40 cents a share and backed the consensus full-year outlook of $1.57 a share. Shares of Home Depot rose 4% to $30.24. Office supply store chain Staples beat the second-quarter consensus analyst earnings forecast by a penny, turning in a 44% increase on the bottom line over a year ago. The Framingham, Mass.-based retailer's earnings were $60 million, or 13 cents a share, compared with $40.4 million, or 9 cents a share, last year. Analysts surveyed by First Call predicted the company would earn 12 cents a share. Revenue increased 5% to $2.43 billion from $2.31 billion last year. The company cited strong sales in core office products, but conceded that lagging technology sales contributed to the relatively flat revenue increase from 2001 to 2002. Staples nevertheless said its second quarter was a turning point, with several key areas gaining sales momentum. A focus on small business customers grew the company's gross margin 5% in retail business, for example. The company also added new stores in pre-existing markets, which helped grow sales by 3% each week. A total of 19 new stores were added in North America. The now 1,266 store chain said a profit improvement plan implemented in early 2002 at 400 stores has already cut $40 million out of operating expenses. It is targeting overall savings of $200 million. Looking ahead, Staples expects to earn 22 cents to 24 cents a share in the third quarter, and 80 cents to 84 cents for the year. First Call analysts' consensus predicts the company will earn 24 cents a share in the third quarter and 83 cents for the year. Staples slid almost 8% to $15.61. Hampstead, Md.-based Jos. A. Bank saw profit more than triple to $942,000, or 13 cents a share, on a 12.5% rise in revenue to $51.9 million. Analysts were expecting earnings of 10 cents a share. The company cited the higher sales, lower interest costs and other expense controls for the improvement. The clothing retailer expects to earn $1.35 a share for the full year, in line with estimates, and will add about 17 new stores before its fiscal year is over. Jos. Jumped 16% to $19.90. Natick, Mass.-based BJ's Wholesale said second-quarter earnings fell to $35.9 million, or 50 cents a share, from $36.5 million, or 49 cents a share, last year. The earnings matched the First Call consensus, which came down earlier this month when the company said its product mix was unfavorable. Sales rose to $1.45 billion from $1.28 billion a year ago. BJ's said it plans to buy back $100 million of stock. The company's shares were slipping 1% to $26.90. Elsewhere, Qwest ( Q) was rising 29% to $2.88 after the company reached an agreement to sell its directories business for $7 billion. AT&T was gaining 4% to $11.15 after J.P. Morgan upgraded the stock and a report circulated that AOL Time Warner ( AOL) is preparing to buy out the company's stake in Time Warner Entertainment for $9 billion in cash and stock. AOL was up 1%. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Deutsche Telekom's ( DT) VoiceStream unit has proposed merging with Cingular, a venture of SBC Communications ( SBC) and BellSouth ( BLS). Cingular would be the controlling shareholder after the proposed transaction. Stocks in the wireless sector were mixed in the wake of the report. Deutsche Telekom was basically flat, while BellSouth slid 5% and SBC dropped 7%, likely because of a UBS Warburg downgrade of the regional Bells.