Gap: Top S&P 500 Gainer (Update 1)

Updated from 10:38 a.m. ET with commentary from Stifel Nicolaus and additional data on Gap.

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The Gap ( GPS) was the best-performing stock in the S&P 500 in late trading Thursday.

The S&P 500 was up nearly 6 points just ahead of Thursday's closing bell at 1373.

Shares of Gap increased 7.02% Thursday afternoon to $25.00. The retailer reported Thursday that February net sales rose 6% and that February comparable sales, which also factors in online sales, increased 4% compared with a year-ago loss of 3%. Analysts were expecting a drop of 1.4% in this area, according to Bloomberg, which cited Retail Metrics data.

Sales at Banana Republic increased 12%, up from a year-ago loss of 4%. Stifel Nicolaus analyst Richard Jaffe noted that while the store's Mad Men tie-in has been beneficial, he thinks that Banana Republic is "in the right place at the right time" regarding men's fashions such as skinny ties.

Sales at the flagship brand increased 1%, up from a year-ago loss of 1%. Jaffe said there was a confluence of positives for Gap, including an unseasonably warm February and a light-inventoried holiday period that made room for the Gap's spring, bright merchandise.

Gap's stock also hit a 52-week high Thursday of $26. The stock's 52-week low of $15.08 was set on Sept. 6.

Gap has an estimated price-to-earnings ratio for next year of 12.82; the average for apparel retailer companies is 16.81. For comparison, both Limited Brands ( LTD) and Nordstrom ( JWN) have higher forward P/Es of 14.4 and 13.54, respectively.

Twenty-one of the 32 analysts who cover Gap rated it hold. Six analysts give the stock a buy rating and five rate it at sell.

TheStreet Ratings gives Gap a B grade with a buy rating and $27.17 price target. The stock has risen 34.77% year to date.

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--Written by Alexandra Zendrian in New York.

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