Best Buy ( BBY) said first-quarter earnings from continuing operations fell from a year ago, but revenue climbed and the electronics retailer said it was optimistic that shoppers are becoming more willing to spend on its wares.

When calculated according to generally accepted accounting principles, the company lost $25 million, or 8 cents a share, compared with a loss of $333 million, or $1.04 a share in the year-ago period. Earnings from continuing operations fell to $69 million, or 21 cents a share, from $79 million, or 24 cents a share, a year ago. On that basis, analysts polled by Thomson First Call were expecting earnings of 20 cents.

Revenue from continuing operations rose 11% to $4.67 billion from $4.20 billion in the year-ago quarter, driven by the addition of 79 new stores in the past 12 months. Same-store sales rose 2.2%.

"Earnings from continuing operations came in above our expectations, after the war in Iraq ended and increased consumer confidence during the quarter sent more shoppers to our stores and to our Web sites," the company said in a press release. "The mid-single-digit gain in comparable store sales we enjoyed in May boosts our confidence in the sales outlook for our fiscal second quarter and for the rest of our fiscal year."

Best Buy expects same-store sales gains in the mid-single digits for the second quarter, and it said gross margins should remain relatively flat. The company is forecasting earnings from continuing operations of about 27 cents to 32 cents for the quarter, up from 24 cents in the same period a year ago.

For the full year, the company said increased consumer confidence, market share gains and easier comparable-store sales comparisons will lead to higher same-store sales gains in the second half of fiscal 2004. Best Buy expects more cost savings, but said that will be offset in part by investments in strategic initiatives.

The company maintained its guidance for continuing operations in fiscal 2004, including estimated revenue growth of 11% to 13% and earnings growth of 14% to 16%, which would translate to earnings per share of $2.17 to $2.22.

Analysts are looking for earnings of 27 cents in the second quarter and $2.19 for the full year.

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