Strong U.S. sales at its upper-midmarket brand Jared helped lift Signet Jewelers Inc.’s second-quarter profits 47.5 percent, propelling results above analysts’ earnings estimates.

Signet said Thursday that net income totaled $40.7 million, or 47 cents a diluted share, for the quarter ended July 31, compared with income of $27.6 million, or 32 cents a share, in the year-ago period. Net sales amounted to $722.8 million, up 1.7 percent from $710.8 million in the 2009 quarter.

Analysts expected EPS of 41 cents on sales of $725.5 million, according to Thomson Reuters.

Sales in the U.S. grew 5.1 percent to $580.8 million, as sales in the U.K. fell 10.3 percent to $142 million. Comparable-store sales increased 4.5 percent, bolstered by a 5.9 percent comp rise in the U.S., which was offset by a 0.5 percent decline in the U.K.

A frayed U.S. jewelry market overwrought by bankruptcies was ripe for the picking as comp sales at Jared jumped 14 percent, according to Signet.

Chief executive officer Terry Burman said on the company call that Jared’s comp increase “reflects a bounce back in spending by the upper-middle-market consumer,” as well as a benefit from certain “merchandising initiatives.”

“At the same time, competitors are under financial pressure, which we believe has adversely impacted their operational execution,” he said. “We also believe that we continue to take advantage of the capacity withdrawal from the sector, which we estimate to be above the long-term trend, although below last year’s level.”

But Burman warned that despite strong results in the U.S., the “economic outlook is challenging and uncertain” and, as a result, there will not likely be the addition of any “significant new space” in fiscal 2011.

Among Signet’s principal competitors is the financially troubled Zale Corp.

In the first half, Signet’s net income soared 72 percent to $92.7 million, or $1.07 a diluted share, compared with profits of $53.9 million, or 63 cents a share, in the year-ago period. Net sales grew 4 percent to $1.53 billion from $1.47 billion.

Shares of Signet rose $1.30, or 4.7 percent, to end Thursday trading at $28.72.

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