Tiffany's ( TIF) fourth-quarter earnings slid 35% from a gain-swollen year-ago period, but the jewelry retailer still beat estimates on strong sales across most of its geographies. Tiffany earned $140.3 million, or 97 cents a share, in the latest quarter, including a gain of 10 cents a share related to the repatriation of overseas earnings. Excluding the item, the earnings were 3 cents ahead of the Thomson First Call consensus for the period. A year ago, Tiffany earned $217 million, or $1.48 a share, including a pretax gain of $194 million related to the sale of the company's stake in Aber Diamond Corp. Fourth-quarter sales rose 6% to $858.5 million, missing Wall Street's estimate for $868.2 million. On a constant-exchange-rate basis, net sales rose 9% in the quarter while worldwide comparable-store sales rose 6%. Tiffany said U.S. retail sales rose 8% to $449.4 million in the quarter on a 5% rise in same-store sales. Branch same-store sales rose 7% in the quarter while flagship New York comps fell 2%. Internationally, retail sales rose 1% to $304 million; the gain was 10% in constant currency. On that basis, Japan same-store sales rose 8% in the fourth quarter from a year ago. Looking ahead, Tiffany expects first-quarter earnings to match or slightly exceed the 27 cents a share it earned in the year-ago period. Analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call were predicting 30 cents a share. For the current year, Tiffany expects to earn $1.77 to $1.82 a share; the consensus is $1.81 a share. "Our full-year sales objective assumes mid-single-digit worldwide comparable store sales growth on a constant-exchange-rate basis, including a high-single-digit increase in the U.S. and low-single-digit growth in local currency in Japan, as well as healthy sales growth in other markets, and opening at least four stores in the U.S. and seven stores (net of closings) internationally," Tiffany said. "Earnings growth is also predicated on an improvement in SG&A leverage and an effective tax rate of 38%."