Analysts have raised estimates for the quarter by a penny a share and the short interest for the stock has plunged. That shouldn't be a surprise; the stock is up 30% for the past year. However, over the last three months, it's actually traded down slightly over concerns about soft North American sales.
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The average estimate for earnings is 58 cents a share, up from 57 cents a share in the year-earlier quarter, according to Thomson Reuters. Revenue is estimated to rise 4.3% to $889.5 million versus last year's quarter in which sales totaled $852.7 million. Even though analysts have gotten more comfortable raising the estimates, the majority of them have a "hold" rating on the stock. The company is also operating without a full time Chief Financial Officer. CFO Patrick McGuiness unexpectedly resigned earlier this month. His last day is Nov. 27, one day after the company's earnings report. In the meantime, COO James Fernandez, who used to be the CFO, is stepping in temporarily.
The general feeling this holiday is that the high-end customer feels comfortable spending money, whereas the lower end Wal-Mart (WMT) and Dollar Store (DLTR) customers are feeling pressured. This would explain why the stock has been on a steady uptrend since 2012 and is set to hit its previous record high of $84.49 in July 2011. There is also the feeling that customers in the Northeast that were hurt by Hurricane Sandy last year are in the mood to shop and make up for last year's difficult holiday.
Written by Debra Borchardt in New York.