Kroger: Best of the Worst

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Kroger ( KR) seems to be the best of the worst among supermarkets.

Food deflation and pricing wars with discounters are expected to sour Kroger's second-quarter earnings results when the company reports on Tuesday -- still, it continues to outperform the rest of the industry.

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Analysts expect the company to earn 44 cents in the second quarter. Citi analyst Deborah Weinswig forecasts total sales growth of 2.5% to $18.5 billion during the quarter.

Management did not provide second-quarter guidance, but did say full-year earnings will fall between $2 and $2.05 a share.

In its first quarter Kroger posted a 12% gain in profit to 435.1 million, or 66 cents a share, compared with $386 million, or 58 cents, in the year-ago period. Analysts expected earnings of 62 cents a share.

Sales, including fuel, declined to $22.8 billion from $23.1 billion, while same-store sales, excluding fuel, rose 3.1%

Traditional grocers like Kroger, Safeway ( SWY) and Supervalu ( SVU) are up against discounters like Wal-Mart Stores ( WMT), BJ's Wholesale ( BJ) and Costco Wholesale ( COST), which have been benefiting from shoppers trading down during our time of economic strife.

And Credit Suisse analyst Edward J. Kelly does not expect things to get much better in the second-half of the year.

Kelly rates Kroger and Safeway as outperform, while he rates Supervalu's stock as neutral.

Shares of Kroger were up 1% in morning trading to $21.97.

-- Reported by Jeanine Poggi in New York

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