NEW YORK (AP) ¿ A Jefferies & Co. analyst raised his rating on Kohl's Corp. to "Buy" on Tuesday, citing the company's efforts to manage inventory and hold down Wall Street's expectations, as well as reduced competition from rival department stores.

Analyst Daniel Binder raised the company's rating to "Buy" from "Hold" and boosted his price target to $44, from $35 to $37.

"The company arguably managed inventories better than any retailer in our space last year," Binder said.

He also expects the Menomonee Falls, Wis.-based company to benefit from the liquidation of Hayward, Calif.-based Mervyns LLC, which operated nearly 150 department stores.

"New store productivity still looks a soft, but is reflective of the environment and slower square footage growth next year should help," Binder said. "Meanwhile Kohl's has shown strong relative sales growth in the industry."

Binder added that Kohl's may also beat its gross margin guidance this year due in part to an increasing mix of private label products.

Tuesday, Binder also upgraded his ratings on Home Depot Inc., Lowe's Cos., Costco Wholesale Corp., Target Corp., Best Buy Co. and United Stationers Inc.
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