9 Retailers Hitting 52-Week Highs: TJX, LULU, M, DDS, UA, EXPR, TGT, HOTT, FL

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Shares of several retail stocks hit 52-week highs as a rebounding economy and job market coincided with improving earnings.

The following retail stocks hit 52-week highs on Thursday: TJX ( TJX), Lululemon ( LULU), Macy's ( M), Dillards ( DDS), Under Armour ( UA), Express ( EXPR), Target ( TGT), Hot Topic ( HOTT), Foot Locker ( FL).

ITG analyst Linda Tsai said she thinks retailers such as the ones that hit a 52-week high Thursday have been working on cutting costs, which is catching the attention of investors. She noted that for some retailers, the cost of goods in the second half of 2012 will be lower than it was the previous year.

TJX

The discounted retailer bought two of Fidelity Investments' buildings in Marlborough, Mass., on Wednesday, according to the Boston Globe.

"Over the past five years, TJX improved gross margin (GM) by 290bps, and impressively managed to mitigate cost pressures in 2011 as merchandise margin (MM) was up yr/yr (up 10bps in Q4 which incurred cost pressures and aggressive promo activity)," Wells Fargo analysts wrote in a Feb. 23 report. "TJX continues to expect GM improvement in 2012 with the majority driven by MM improvement. We model GM up 50bps for 2012."

Shares of TJX hit a 52-week high Thursday of $37.69. The stock's 52-week low of $24.13 was set on March 18.

TJX has an estimated price-to-earnings ratio for next year of 14.62 times; the average for apparel retailers is 16.29. For comparison, Limited Brands ( LTD) and The Gap ( GPS) both have lower forward P/Es of 14.54 and 12.24, respectively.

Twenty-one of the 31 analysts who cover TJX rated it buy; 10 analysts gave the stock a hold rating.

TheStreet Ratings gives TJX an A+ grade with a buy rating and $48.68 price target. The stock closed Thursday at $37.74 and has risen 16.85% year to date.

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Lululemon

"We continue increasing momentum in the athletic apparel business due to innovation," Sterne Agee analysts wrote in a Feb. 22 report. "We believe LULU is getting more than its fair share, from players such as Nike (NKE-$104.95-Buy) and Under Armour (UA- $82.52-Buy), especially from the female consumer. We are encouraged by the increased inventory position at the end of Q3 to meet the strong demand. At this point, we believe that LULU has continued to flow product early, and is positioned appropriately with 4Q ending inventory at ~115% of ourm estimated 1Q12 COGS, or ~$132M. Given the strong top-line beat in Q4, if management did adjust the flow to the current momentum, there should be material upside to our 1H12 estimates."

Shares of Lululemon hit a 52-week high Thursday of $72. The stock's 52-week low of $36.51 was set on March 10.

Lululemon has a forward P/E of 44.2; the average for clothing and accessories companies is 28.31. For comparison, Gildan Activewear ( GIL) has a forward P/E of 12.42.

Thirteen of the 23 analysts who cover Lululemon rated it buy. Nine analysts gave the stock a hold rating and one rated it sell.

TheStreet Ratings gives Lululemon a B+ grade with a buy rating and $93 price target. The stock closed Thursday at $70.94 and has risen 52.04% year to date.


Macy's

The retailer's price target at Credit Suisse was raised to $43 from $36 on Thursday.

"The 'winners are really winning' theme continues to permeate retail, and Macy's has been one of the clearest examples," Credit Suisse analysts wrote in a report Thursday. "Beginning in '10, M started gaining share in the department store space, and in the past six months, the gains have only accelerated. Macy's impressive top line performance is partially a result of weakness at its competitors."

Shares of Macy's hit a 52-week high Thursday of $39.15. The stock's 52-week low of $22.50 was set on March 23.

Macy's has a forward P/E of 10.39; the average for broad-line retailers is 27.62. For comparison, J.C. Penney ( JCP) and Target ( TGT) both have higher forward P/Es of 13.08 and 11.89, respectively.

Fifteen of the 19 analysts who cover Macy's rated it buy; four analysts gave the stock a hold rating.

TheStreet Ratings gives Macy's an A+ grade with a buy rating and $50.57 price target. The stock closed Thursday at $39.30 and has risen 22.13% year to date.

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Dillards

"Shoes and accessories alone make up 30% of DDS business, and we have no doubt that this helped to drive the company's 3% increase in same store sales (SSS) and further expansion of its operating margin (+40 bps)," Credit Suisse analysts wrote in a Feb. 23 report. "Looking ahead, now that the retail gross margin appears to have stabilized (flat to down 10 bps in each of the last three quarters), further expansion of the operating margin will likely need to result from continued top line improvement."

Shares of Dillards hit a 52-week high Thursday of $62.68. The stock's 52-week low of $37.87 was set on March 29.

Dillards has a forward P/E of 11.88; the average for apparel retailers is 16.75. For comparison, Abercrombie & Fitch ( ANF) has a lower forward P/E of 11.04; Urban Outfitters' ( URBN) forward P/E is 18.55.

Sixteen of the 18 analysts who cover Dillards rated it buy; two analysts gave the stock a hold rating.

TheStreet Ratings gives Dillards an A- grade with a buy rating and $79.31 price target. The stock closed Thursday at $62.18 and has risen 38.55% year to date.


Under Armour

"The Company seems to be taking a more disciplined approach to inventory via a combination of SKU rationalization (20% reduction of total assortment expected in FY12), supply chain improvements and perhaps a more conservative approach to orders," KeyBanc Capital Markets analysts wrote in a Jan. 27 report. "We believe that this should help drive continued improvement in inventory levels during 2012."

Shares of Under Armour hit a 52-week high of $93.36 on Thursday. The stock's 52-week low of $52.62 was set on Aug. 19.

Under Armour has a forward P/E of 31.06; the average for clothing and accessories companies is 13.98. For comparison, Columbia Sportswear ( COLM) has a lower forward P/E of 13.69.

Fourteen of the 27 analysts who cover Under Armour rated it hold. Eleven analysts gave the stock a buy rating and two rated it sell.

TheStreet Ratings gives Under Armour a B grade with a buy rating and $120.91 price target. The stock closed Thursday at $92.85 has risen 29.34% year to date.

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Express

This is the second day the retail stock has hit a new 52-week high. The stock hit a 52-week high Wednesday of $25.43 following its fourth-quarter earnings.

Express' fourth-quarter earnings were $60.4 million, or 68 cents a share, up from year-ago earnings of $48.4 million, or 55 cents.

Shares of Express hit a 52-week high Thursday of $25.82. The stock's 52-week low of $16.12 was set on Aug 19.

Express has a forward P/E of 11.76; the average for apparel retailers is 16.76. For comparison, Guess ( GES) has a lower forward P/E of 11.05; American Eagle Outfitters' ( AEO) forward P/E is 12.69.

Twelve of the 14 analysts who cover Express rated it buy; two analysts gave the stock a hold rating.

TheStreet Ratings gives Express a C grade and hold rating. The stock closed Thursday at $25.49 and has risen 27.83% year to date.


Target

The discount retailer announced Thursday that 100 of its stores have been remodeled to offer groceries.

"Management was confident in the company's ability to meet or exceed its 2017 goal of $8 in EPS," Piper Jaffray analysts wrote in a March 2 report. "By 2017, the company expects to double sales per share from about $90 to about $180 as sales climb from $65B to $100B and as the company repurchases shares."

Shares of Target hit a 52-week high Thursday of $57.29. The stock's 52-week low of $45.28 was set on Aug. 8.

Target has a forward P/E of 11.89; the average for broad-line retailers is 27.6. For comparison, Wal-Mart ( WMT) has a lower forward P/E of 11.26; Costco's ( COST) forward P/E is 20.31.

Eighteen of the 28 analysts who cover Target rated it buy; 10 analysts gave the stock a hold rating.

TheStreet Ratings gives Target an A- grade with a buy rating and $65.56 price target. The stock closed Thursday at $57.23 and has risen 11.73% year to date.

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Hot Topic

The retailer reported fourth-quarter earnings on Wednesday of $9 million, or 21 cents a share, up from year-ago loss of $578,000, or a penny a share.

"We believe the current momentum in the business will continue bolstered by a recovering fashion apparel division at HT, improving accessories business and strong early reads of licensed merchandise from Hunger Games," Piper Jaffray analysts wrote in a report Thursday.

ITG analyst Linda Tsai said that the company's Chief Executive Officer of about a year Lisa Harper is making headway with her turnaround plan for the company and that the company is benefitting from scaling back from licensed apparel related to movies rather than overbuying it.

Shares of Hot Topic hit a 52-week high Thursday of $10.11. The stock's 52-week low of $5.05 was set on March 21.

Hot Topic has a forward P/E of 23.3; the average for apparel retail is 17.69. For comparison, Aeropostale ( ARO) has a lower forward P/E of 16.22.

Four of the seven analysts who cover Hot Topic rated it buy. Two analysts gave the stock a hold rating and one rated it sell.

TheStreet Ratings gives Hot Topic a C grade and hold rating. The stock closed Thursday at $9.86 and has risen 49.17% year to date.


Foot Locker

The athletic shoe retailer anticipates its annual sales to rise 33% to $7.5 billion by 2016, according to Bloomberg.

"Based on the positive changes occurring within FL, most importantly the empowered team atmosphere that continues to evolve, and , what we believe will be the achievement of most all but the sales part of the revised plan by 2015 at the latest, we are raising our PT from $30 to $36," Sterne Agee analysts wrote in a report Wednesday. "We contend that potential effectiveness of new allocation systems, and measured investments into the core businesses will drive upside to EPS and revenue in the coming years."

Shares of Foot Locker hit a 52-week high Thursday of $30.17. The stock's 52-week low of $16.66 was set on Aug. 8.

Foot Locker has a forward P/E of 12.19; the average for apparel retailers is 16.75. For comparison, Finish Line ( FINL) has a higher forward P/E of 13.25.

Nine of the 15 analysts who cover Foot Locker rated it buy; six analysts gave the stock a hold rating.

TheStreet Ratings gives Foot Locker an A+ grade with a buy rating and $37.97 price target. The stock closed Thursday at $30.12 and has risen 26.34% year to date.

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-- Written by Alexandra Zendrian

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