ZALE SHINES: Shares of Zale Corp. rose to their highest levels in four years, following Goldman Sachs’ upgrade of the stock. Analyst Adrianne Shapira raised her rating on Zales to “outperform” from “in line,” elevated her fiscal 2004 earnings estimate to $4 a share from $3.68 and introduced a 2005 earnings per share forecast of $4.50. Shares rose $2.91, or 6 percent, to close at $51.76 on New York Stock Exchange trading and reached a high of $52.05 in intraday trading. In raising her guidance and view, Shapira cited management’s appetite for stock repurchases, the likelihood of future expansion of margins and comparable-store sales gains and the firm’s new off-mall jewelry store concept.

BRANDS SWELL FOR HOLIDAY?: Sales of sportswear bearing national brands will outpace private label this holiday and fuel a 4 percent increase in overall sportswear volume in the November-December period, Art Spar, chairman and chief executive officer at Cambridge, Mass.-based STS Market Research forecast Thursday. That result would mark a positive swing of 3.7 percentage points versus the 0.3 percent decline in sales sportswear saw during holiday 2002. Jeans and activewear are expected to be the most sought after sportswear purchases for holiday.

Citing research STS conducted at department stores around the country, Spar said, “Both men and women — and especially women — are showing a preference for national brands over private labels.” Sportswear brands performing particularly well at the department stores, Spar said, include Polo/Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Liz Claiborne, Energie, Erika, Levi’s and L.E.I.

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